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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Narrow Row Corn

Is narrow row corn the wave of the future.  The reasoning behind narrow row corn is that we need to find a way to put more corn plants in an acre in order to push yields to higher levels needed to provide food, feed, and fuel to a growing population.  Many think that this cannot be done with corn in the "standard" 30 inch rows.  We have a number of customers who have experimented with some sort of narrower row system.  15 inch rows, 20 inch rows, and twin rows have all been used.  No particular advantage or disadvantage has come to light, but the idea cannot be easily dismissed.  Greg Sauder and Marion Calmer are both advocates of narrow row technology.  No-Till Farmer recently published and interesting article on narrow rows.

Monday, January 30, 2012

River Transportation

River transportation is an extremely important cog in the agricultural export system.  getting the bounty of the land to market has been an issue since European Settlers began farming in the Midwest.  Texas A&M University completed a study for the United Soybean Board documenting the condition of our river transportation system.  The aging system seems to be causing more delays in shipping.  There are no detours on the river.  If something does not work there is no way around it.  Truck and rail are not a substitute for river transportation because their capacity is so much less. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Staunton Wheat

Wheat near Staunton looks good except for a few wet spots.  We have more than enough moisture for now.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crop Sensors for Nitrogen Management

This article says that crop sensors can help in making nitrogen application decision on growing crops.  There is no mention of using PSNT testing to calibrate the sensors, but it seems like a good way to go.  Sensors have been used successfully often enough that they should be considered.  The sensors in his article are chlorophyll sensors.  Soil color sensors have also been experimented with.  The theory on soil color sensors is that they will sense darker and lighter colored soils.  Dark soils tend to be higher in nitrogen and therefor have more potential to release nitrogen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soil Organic Matter

When we talk about soil health, we look at things like tilth, compaction, erosion, microbes, and etc.  One easy indicator of soil health is organic matter levels.  Check your soil test reports and see if organic matter levels are going up or down.  Declining organic matter levels could indicate that you are doing too much tillage or removing too much residue.  High yielding crops will help maintain organic matter and tilth.

For additional information check out this Crops and Soils magazine article.  It covers many aspects of soil organic matter.  One of the concerns in the magazine and one I have seen in other venues as well is the concern that removing crop residues for biofuels will lower soil organic matter.  Some long term research is needed on the subject.  It is possible that removing residue, but continuing to use no-till could maintain or reduce the amount of soil organic matter lost.  Why?  A good bit of the organic matter produced by the crop is in the roots.  Not tilling the soil would reduce exposure to oxygen and slow down oxidation of organic matter.  I am speculating here.  That is why I am suggesting research.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modern Marvels

Modern Marvels is a documentary type program on the History Channel that covers much of the modern technology in our world.  Today History Channel was running one hour episodes on wheat, rice, supermarkets, and agri-tech and genetic engineering behind nuts.  I caught most of the wheat episode and some of the other 3.  These episodes are well done and fairly well balanced.  It is nice to such programming in the mainstream media.  Episodes are available for download on Itunes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Agricultural Drainage and the Environment

Agricultural drainage often bears the blame for high nitrates in surface water and Gulf Hypoxia issues.  These concerns are at least somewhat legitimate, but farmers are capable of addressing them.  I am an advocate of drainage as a yield boosting production practice.  I am also and advocate of proper nitrogen management.  I recently ran across some estimates that as much as 20 of the nitrogen in surface water is from fall applied nitrogen.  I our area, fall applied nitrogen has not been a great practice, but it is done.  If you must, be careful not to over apply, and be sure that soil temperatures are cool enough.  Use nitrification inhibitors.  Cut rates and sidedress is the best way to go, but it leaves producers with a lot to do in a short time. 

Another nitrogen management technique that is proven, but not widely implemented is the use of Bio-reactors.  Tile lines are designed to release water into a bio-reactor. The bio-reactor consists of a carbon source such as wood chips.  The wood chips help to filter out the excess nitrates before the water is released into the surface drainage system.  For more information check out this link.  Another practice that can remove nitrates from field runoff is filter strips.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soil Web

The SoilWeb App for smartphones has been around for a at least 2 years.  It takes advantage of the GPS capabilities of the smartphone to give you an almost instant idea of what soil type you are standing on or driving over.  It is only as accurate as the soil survey, but it might useful to help you recognize possible soil problems or issues. 

The SoilWeb Data is also available for Google Earth on your desktop or laptop computer.  The cool thing about having the data on google earth is that it is easy to use by panning across the landscape.  When you stop, give it a minute catch up.  Clicking on the labels will give you additional information about the soil types you are interested in.  Another great feature is that you can overlay the soils on aerial photographs taken on different dates to see how the soil lines match up with photographic tones.  The website link above also has additional information about this application that you might find interesting. 

These applications do require an internet connection to be fully functional. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

High Tunnel

Vegetable growers in the Midwest can capture early spring vegetable markets with High Tunnel Structures. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Agricultural Careers

Yesterday an article posted by Terence Loose on Useless Agriculture Careers gained a good deal of notoriety on twitter and maybe a number of other places.  It seemed that some of us in agriculture took offense that he was singling out our careers as worthless.  Maybe he was but I don't think so.  He was just looking at some job growth projections that were negative.  I think the projections were based on flawed logic rather than on any real notion of what is going on in the world. 

Farming is getting more complex by the day.  New technology comes out that looks promising, but we can't even find vendors who understand the equipment.  Precision ag vendors just don't have enough competent and technically savvy people to provide needed service.  Regulation seems to increase every time the Congress or state legislature is in session.  Often production agriculture people need extra help to comply with new regulations.

The logic that farmers need less help as they grow bigger is very flawed.  The new mega-farmers need more competent and well educated employees and consultants than ever.  The above photo is a picture of the office of The Maschoff's a huge hog production farm about 50 miles south of me.  Be sure to check out their careers tab.  When I looked, they had 80 items available not including internship opportunities.  Another bit of evidence concerning jobs in the ag sector was the fact that recent extension service meetings have been starting with a University of Illinois recruiting presentation.  They are recruiting students because they have more companies looking for competent students than they have students to fill the jobs.

Many others have posted compelling figures about the availability and viability of agricultural careers so I do not need to redo their work.  I respond to this article not because I am insulted, but because I want the United States to continue to have well educated agricultural researchers, consultants, and vendors so that we can continue to grow the least expensive food in the world.

What about developing countries?  As the world population continues to grow, we need to be able to give developing countries the best production techniques possible.  It is possible to implement modern practices even when using animals as the primary power source.  I am also located near Illinois Amish Country.  When I drive through that I area I am hard pressed to distinguish Amish farmed fields from others.  I know I could learn something from them.  I feel like I have much more to say, but I will leave it to some of the others who have also made well thought out responses to Mr. Loose.

Common Sense Agriculture tells us how to respond in a positive way.

Brandi Buzzard  a Kansas State Student has written a good article that contains contact information for Mr. Loose.

Allen S. Levine does a good job refuting the information about the specific targeted jobs.

Ryan Goodman admits that the article struck his emotions, but he goes on to share lots of facts. 

Jeremy Fair of the Farmer's Perspective makes some good points. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Southern Illinois No-Till Association

Today I attended a seminar put on by the Southern Illinois No-Till Association in Pinkneyville.  Expectations were exceeded by the valuable information presented.  I also got to visit with some old friends.  Steve Ebelhar discussed two topics of interest.  First on the list was urease inhibitors.  His research shows they work and pay for themselves.  Some work better than others, so do a little research yourself.  His presentation on nitrogen in wheat was very timely.  His research shows that nitrogen applied in March is more effective than if it is applied in February.

Mike Plumer discussed Vertical Tillage.  As I have pointed out before, some people are using one pass vertical tillage tools much to aggressively.  He also pointed out that on Highly Erodible fields, Vertical Tillage may not control erosion as well as No-Till, so check with NRCS before you commit on those fields.  He also had a general discussion on cover crops.  I did not realize that Tillage Radish and Hairy vetch are being used in tandem.

Bryan Young discussed chemicals and Glyphosate resistance.  A word of caution on Ignite/Liberty that I did not know.  It is not as effective on Palmer Amaranth as we might like.  I have seen some fields treated with Ignite that looked very clean, but I do not know their weed pressures.  This is a little less positive than I have been.  Soil applied residuals with different modes of action are definitely a part of the picture.  He says to apply chemicals at full rates even if tank mixing or applying something else later.

Chris Evans made and excellent presentation on invasive species.  I think I will write a separate blog on the topic. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Erosion Control with Native Vegetation

Why not just plant tall fescue and be done with it.  It meets my goal of establishing a persistent grass that keeps my soil covered at all times.

Native vegetation has the advantage of "fitting" in to the local ecosystem.  We know our soils and climate are adapted to the native species.  One of the problems we have in Illinois is that sometimes native species are slow to establish.  We need to use temporary covers, mulches or mats to keep the soil in place on some steeper areas.  We need to plant at the right time, and it pays to use native grass no-till drills or in extreme cases, hydroseeding.  If possible, by local produced seed.  If you are in Illinois, you are more likely to be sucessful with Illinioos grown seed.  Retaining the original topsoil and top dressing could also help.  Retaining topsoil preserves the microbes which can be critical for good nutrient extraction.

Native vegetatiioin is also generally better adapted to support wildlife than some of our traditional cool season grasses.  If you want to enhance the land for specific species check for species and varieties to support the quail, pheasant or dove that you wish to have.

The July-August Issue  of Erosion Control Magazine goes into great detail on establishing native vegetation. 

Corn Usage

So the information in this blog was far more difficult to find than I expected.  I was hoping that USDA would have some data or charts that I could use to make my point.  Lots of people seem to be concerned about the amount of corn that goes to non-food uses.  Especially of concern is the amount of corn that goes to ethanol production.  My contention would be that the demand dictates what farmers choose to produce.  Somehow, economics seems to balance it all out.  Right now the experts I listen to say that demand for corn will be strong.  Since we have developed new uses for the crops we produce, world commodity prices have gone up.  Looking at the charts above, it looks like the increase in ethanol production decreased our direct payment subsidies to farmers.  Farmers and the public both say they want this.  I also found it interesting that world soybean production has increased 5 fold since the 1970's, but not at the expense of corn production.

These charts are from Earth Policy Institute and they have lots of other interesting stuff to look at as well.  I also found interesting information at an FAO site called FAOSTAT.  EPA also had some good agricultural statistics which surprised me.  I did find the raw data in some form or another, but it was hard to extract.  Thanks to the organizations that did all the work compiling data. This current World Supply and Demand report contains some interesting data compiled by USDA.  This report is blamed for recent drops in commodity prices, but I would blame traders that just read the headlines instead of really studying the report.  While the accuracy of estimates could be questioned, the past data should be correct. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

University Research

Looking through my reading material today I found a publication on University of Illinois agricultural Research Centers.  It is easy to complain about university research not being cutting edge, but I hope our politicians don't get the idea that we don't need it.  All of our agricultural schools in Illinois are involved in research to some extent or another.  You may recall I wrote recently about Dr. Joel Gruver's research on cover Crops at Western Illinois University.  Illinois State University has a research center North of Bloomington.  Southern Illinois University has research fields near campus and also participates in Research in Belleville  and Dixon Springs.

University of Illinois has the South Farms and the Morrow plots in Urbana, but there are a number of other Centers around the state,  St. Charles Horticultural Research Center looks at Vegetable crops and grape production. Northwestern Illinois Research Center at Monmouth has research being conducted in Soil Chemistry, Crop Production, and Weed Science among other things.  Orr Center near Perry Has many crop science projects related to crop production Dudley Smith Farm is researching biofuels in Christian County.  Brownstown Research Center has crop production research on 160 acres.  I try to visit Brownstown regularly because the soils there are similar to the ones we work with.  Dixon Springs is one of the largest research Centers (over 5000 acres) east of the Mississippi River.  It is the home of much of the early work done with No-Till Farming in Illinois.  There research on grazing is cutting edge.  Many specialty crops are researched at Dixon Springs.  It is a very impressive center. For more information.

Why do we need so many research centers?  Illinois is variable in climate and soils.  Crop Conditions are very different from Monmouth to Dixon Springs.  Farmers need relevant and reliable research results from near the area where they farm.  If you are a non-farm reader, please let your legislators know that you appreciate all their support for research into food production.  We need to keep all these centers open. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Natural Snow Fence

Notice how much snow this Eastern Gamma Grass has caught in front of the office in Shipman.  This is a good demonstration of how well tall, warm season grasses will work as snow fence.  Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, and switchgrass would perform just as well.  It also provides some bit of shelter for wildlife.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Looking NW, South of the Butler T

This is the new location for my "monthly" or as close as I can get to monthly crop progress photo.  I am looking north from a hillside toward Illinois Route 16 between Hillsboro and Lichfield.  A snowy day looked like a good way to begin the year.  There are a large number of soils shown on the soil survey map.  Douglas and Oconee are in the foreground.  Herrick, Piasa, Virden, and Cowden are in the flat areas, 

Friday, January 13, 2012


Took a trip to Pittsfield for a customer appreciation dinner last night.  Snow was blowing like crazy.  We had a good discussion with new clients and old.  We had lots questions about Gypsum and Sulfur.  Things we have been talking about for years are becoming hot topics.  The main farming activity we observed was a number of people were filling trucks out of grain bins.  Time to deliver on January contracts, or maybe just time to pay some bills. 

The other ag related item of interest was the USDA grain report.  It seemed to me that reactions to reports of "larger" supply were over the top.  When you look at the numbers, it does not amount to much.  I am always amazed at how fragile the market can be.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Palmer Amaranth

Aaron Hager, weed scientist, is spending a lot of time at his winter presentations discussing Palmer Amaranth.  Palmer Amaranth is the Osama Bin Laden of weeds.  It seems to embody adaptability and aggressiveness in its growth patterns.  This article is a good one to distinguish among Amaranth Species.  Alan York, a South Carolina weed scientist says that if you were trying to design the perfect weed Palmer Amaranth would be what you would come up with.  Of course with so many acres of crops relying only on glyphosate for weed control, the issue is glyphosate resistance.  It should come as no surprise that a weed as closely related as it is to Water Hemp could develop glyphosate resistance.  Monsanto's recommendations call for early control.  Hager agrees saying that you might get a kill at three inches tall but not at six inches tall.  The problem is that the weed can go from 3 to six inches in one day.  He says a better plan is to use a soil applied residual herbicide early and follow-up with post emergents to clean up escapes.  University of Arkansas is saying that we should have a Zero Tolerance Policy for Palmer Amaranth. 

  As with other resistant pests, rotating chemical families and modes of action should be helpful.  It could certainly end up with resistance as well, but Bayer's Glufosinate-ammonium* previously sold as Ignite could be helpful.  Remember that you need to have the genetics in your crop to use this product.  I understand that this year  Glufosinate-ammonium* may be sold as Liberty in the United States.  It is still listed as Ignite on their web site. Ignite/Liberty is rated a 6 out of 10 on Palmer Amaranth.  The good news is that Google will take you to lots of information on Palmer Amaranth. 

It is interesting that Native Americans ate Amaranth as a one of their major food products.    It is a high protein palatable product.  If we were to decide to go this route, what kind of yields could we expect?  How would we control it when we wanted to rotate to other crops?  How would we handle this very tiny seed with our grain handling systems?  It looks like we are a long way from eating this stuff in the near future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Corn Soybean Classic

They University of Illinois Agronomy and specialists used to do a county by county circuit to impart their wisdom during the winter.  Some years ago, county attendance was dropping off and University Resources became short, so they went to regional meetings.  Yesterday I attended the southern Illinois meeting in Mt. Vernon. Some of the links below are to blogs that I have previously written on the topic. 

The day started with a discussion of  farm drainage. Richard Cooke discussed Drainage Water Management and bio-filters.  The Illinois Drainage Guide  on line had a lot of information needed to make decisions about drainage including an economic analysis calculator.  Click on Economics on the left and you should see a tab below that for the calculator.  You may need to install some Visual Basic information to run it. 

Gary Schnitkey discussed the relationship between corn and soybean prices and how that should affect decisions about what to grow.  He said that prices currently lead us to grow more corn.  I am not sure I would make that decision because of disease pressure and general issues related to yield reductions with corn on corn.

Aaron Hager discussed Palmer Amaranth.  Look for a whole posting on that topic.

Carl Bradley discussed diseases.  He spent a lot of time on  Goss's Wilt which reared its ugly head this year.  In general discussions about diseases would lead you to clean tillage and crop rotations.  Right now the demand for corn leads you away from rotations.  I would hate to see us return to clean fall tillage that puts soil in the air and fills our road ditches.  There has to be a better way.  Goss's Wilt is bacterial, so if you had Goss's Wilt in a field that would be a place to plant soybeans to break they cycle.

Mike Gray made a presentation on insect surveys completed during the growing season.  He said Insect pressures seemed to be lower this year, but some new concerns have arisen,  Everyone is concerned about the Bt resistance that has emerged.  He suggested hybrids with more different resistance genes.  Lots of people are pointing out the need for refuges.  He is also concerned about three "new"  insects.  Two of which I have written about.  Red Banded Stinkbugs and Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs ave been discussed in previous blogs.  Red Shouldered Stinkbugs are also a concern.  U of I would like to know if you find any of these.  They have all been found in Illinois.

Fabian Fernandez discussed soil sampling and fertility.  I have blogged on those topics a lot so I will not provide specific links.  He even offered some explanation of zone sampling.  A lot of what he showed us would lead you away from grid sampling, but he did not come right out and say that. 

Emerson Nafziger discussed the yield lag in corn on corn. He said he thought that water and compaction were both culprits.  I pointed out my evidence to that effect on July 18 .  Disease pressure may also have been a factor. 

They program seemed more of a look back than a look forward.  I know that in farming we base our decisions on past experience.  In addition, it is difficult to determine what will be the hot issues of 2012.  Current information is important.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mt Vernon

I attended the extension service Corn-Soybean Classic in Mt Vernon today.  The trip goes past lots of cropland and I was expecting to see some field work under way somewhere.  We have heard about tillage, fertilizer application, spraying and other activities under way to take advantage of the warm weather.  I did not see any of that.  The program was fine.  I will report on it later in the week.  We did see some nice looking wheat. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gypsum as a soil amendment

Gypsum has been around as a soil amendment since the 18th century.  It comes and goes in popularity.  Right now we are getting a lot of questions about adding gypsum to soils.  Is this a good idea?  As with most things related to soil chemistry, it depends on what is already there.  Gypsum is a good source of sulfur and calcium.  It is NOT a liming material.  Gypsum will not move soil pH at all.

So how do you decide whether or not you can benefit from using gypsum?  What is your soil balance between calcium and magnesium?  If you are high in magnesium, your soil could benefit from additional calcium to improve soil tilth, water infiltration and air movement.  It does this by helping the clays to clump up (floculate).  Water moves more easily through floculated clays.  It is especially useful if your soils are high in clay.

In addition there is mounting evidence that gypsum can reduce soil erosion.  If it improves water infiltration, it is bound to reduce soil erosion. 

Soil sulfur levels seem to drop a bit each year.  Sulfur is one of the essential nutrients for plant growth.  If you are on sandy soils, if your sulfur test is low, or if you are seeing sulfur deficiency, you should be looking to add sulfur.  Gypsom can be a good source of sulfur.

For additional information check out this article in Crops and Soils It is well done.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Farm Futures Summit Day 2

Farm Futures Summit Day 2 offered two business tracks and one technical track.  I stuck with the technical track.  Kelly Robertson opened the day with a discussion about the pitfalls of precision agriculture.  He spent much of his time talking about problems with yield.  I have previously discussed the need for careful calibration in order to collect valid data.  In addition, randomized plots are much better to collect research data than strip trials.  Another common pitfall is ending up with more than one variable.  One variable means that you will find out what you want to know.  Kelly says also be sure to push the limits on your variable.

John Mcguire got into the nuts and bolts of what can be done to analyze your data.  John suggests that the most important thing to look at in site specific farming is profitability. Any variable rate technology used should be used to fix a problem.  If variability in fertility is not a problem in your fields, then there is no use applying fertilizer with variable rate. 

Bruce Erickson's presentation went more along the lines of where we are headed.  Some time was spent on ideal sizes for management zones.  Erickson says that the size of effective management zones is limited by the spacial density of measurement or application whichever is greater.  In other words, you cannot manage more closely than you can measure, and there is no need to measure any more closely than you can apply the technology. 

All three speakers had a panel discussion.  They suggested that the order of preference for implementation is, guidance systems, nozzle shutoffs and planter shutoffs, and lastly, yield monitors.  They seemed to think that variable rate fertilizer fits in with the shutoff technology. Variable rate seeding and variable rate nitrogen may be difficult to implement at this time. 

Moe Russell presented in the afternoon and shared some tools to look at areas to improve in management styles. Self analysis can be very difficult. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Old Planter

This horse drawn 2 row corn planter caught my eye.  Really looks nice.  Silent Saturday

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farm Futures Summit Day One

I spent the last 2 days in St. Louis attending the Farm Futures Summit put on by Farm Progress Publications.  Why do I attend?  You may have gathered that most of the meetings I attend are related to the technical aspects of production agriculture.  This program concentrates more on the business aspects of agriculture.  We had the opportunity to listen to some of the great thinkers. 

One of the highlights was getting to meet some of my twitter friends.  My favorite speaker was Dr. David Kohl of Virginia Tech.  Dr. Kohl brings energy to any room he enters.  His message was about the Trends and Issues that might affect agriculture in the coming years.  He looked at the United States economy in comparison to some of the other economies in the world.  We are stronger than many.  Not as strong as some.  He sees housing starts and Unemployment as the biggest negatives in the economy.  He pointed out that many of the leading index's are pointed in the right direction. 

Danny Klinefelter of Texas A&M discussed peer advisory groups. 

Dick Wittman discussed ways of passing the farm business on to a new generation.  He said that Ownership of land is a separate issue from management and labor needed to run the farm business. 

The highlight of the conference is the Bear Pit panel after dinner.  All the speakers field questions from the audience in the style of a townhall meeting.  MC for the event was Max Armstrong.  Land prices and the debate over a land bubble was a highlight of the bear pit.  One of the speakers said " just because everyone is messing up does not mean they are not all wrong." 

I hope to see more of you at this program next year.

Willie Vogt did a good job putting together a precision ag program.  More on that Monday.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Prairie Burn

I participated today in a Prairie Burn.  Burning maintains and improves the warm season grasses.  The weather was beautiful for the work, but we were in kind of a sheltered area and combined with plenty of soil moisture and not too much fuel, some areas did not burn as well as we would have liked.  Grass roots will survive and hold the soil in place until it greens up in the spring.  Fall and winter burns tend to help the wildflowers as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Treat Your Soybean Seed?

I read an article today about soybean seed treatment.  Soybean seed treatment has been encouraged by seed dealer, but some are still skeptical.  The article in Prairie Farmer said that Purdue University researchers have 11 years of yield data that show about a one bushel increase in yield for treated seed.  They point out that the yield increase will pay for the treatment.  It would be nice to do better than that, but it may be one of those things where the insurance may not help every year, but in the year that is is needed it could pay off well.

I have an anecdote from a customer who had a field where soybean yield were over 10 bushels per acre different from one side of the field to the other.  He thought on the issue for a long time to figure out what caused the difference.  His conclusion was that the better soybeans had seed treatment that the rest of the field did not get.  It was a poorly drained field where water stood for a week after planting.  Seed treatment results seem to show an advantage in poorly drained soils. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012

Cover Crops seem to be a hot topic for 2012.  I was going to give you a link to January Prairie Farmer but it is not posted.  The good news in the article is that NRCS is helping cost share on an annual commitment.

I hope you get a chance to read more.  Dan Towery is one of the best agronomists I know.  He is a big believer especially in Annual Ryegrass.

Using legume cover crops is a great way to protect your soil and get some "free" nitrogen as well.  Keep in mind that in order to maximize nitrogen recovered from legumes, no-till is the way to go.  Tilling adds oxygen to the soil and speeds up nitrification and de-nitrification. 

Grass cover crops my have advantages to your operation.  Here is a link to using  Annual Ryegrass  cover crops.  Tillage radishes are great in No-till situations.  Penn State has some great results with Tillage Radishes.