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Generally, springtime is not an ideal time for conducting tillage because of potential negative soil and agronomic outcomes associated with tillage in wet conditions. These soil and agronomic problems are linked together in affecting yield. Here are some of the reasons to avoid spring tillage:
a. Generally, fresh-tilled soils are susceptible to soil erosion, especially in the spring when significant surface runoff can occur with snow melt on a deep frozen soil, and the possibility of high intensity rain in the spring.
b. Tilling soils in general is damaging to soil health, which includes destroying soil structure, as I mentioned above, reducing water penetration and sub-soil recharge, and loss of soil organic matter and nutrients along with sediments to waterways.
My recommendation is to be very careful with tillage this spring for the above reasons and to minimize the use of tillage. Also, watch for soil moisture and be careful not to enter the field if the drainage tiles are still running, which means the soil is above field capacity. That is the worst condition for soil compaction. This is true for all springtime operations, whether you are tilling the soil or applying fertilizers. You need to inspect the field and make sure that soil moisture is at or below field capacity by the simple test of taking a handful of soil and squeezing it in your palm; if you notice a trace of moisture on your palm, it is too wet to enter the field.
Source: Iowa State University
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