Strip tillage for high-residue irrigated cropping systems
click image to zoomAndrew McGuire, Washington State UniversityFigure 8. An example of a chaff spreader installed on a combine to distribute chaff over the width of the header. Notice the difference between the chaff spreader and a straw spreader, parts of which are also shown. Cooler soil temperature in the spring is one of the problems with leaving residue and not tilling. However, fall strip tillage can eliminate this problem. Research has shown that removing residue has a larger impact on warming soils than tillage (Kaspar et al. 1990; McGuire 2009; figure 11). Row cleaners put on the strip tillage unit and planter can help move any residue away from the seeding area (figures 6 and 12).
Further research needs to be done to determine the influence of timing of strip tillage on crop growth and yield for different soil types and residue levels. In the one-pass strip tillage system, soil temperatures may be cooler during germination, resulting in slower plant emergence. Under these conditions, plant stress may increase seedling diseases and nutrient deficiencies.
click image to zoomHoward Binford, Amalgamated Sugar CompanyFigure 9. Sugar beet seedlings emerging in a field using a grown cover crop and strip tillage. Notice how the triticale cover crop residue provides shelter for seedlings from blowing sand. Strip Tillage Joins Benefits of No Tillage and Conventional Tillage
Strip tillage offers a compromise that retains most of the advantages of no-till planting but also addresses conditions that local farmers cannot control, such as compaction and nonuniform residue distribution caused by harvest, compaction-prone sandy soils, and short-term land leases. Strip tillage enables deep ripping to remove hard pans and provide an area for the roots to penetrate vertically. It also allows fertilizer to be applied below the surface. If the strip tillage operation is done before planting, soil temperatures are higher compared to no-till soil and provide better stand establishment (figure 13).
click image to zoomO. Steve NorbergFigure 10. Misalignment of the planter with the tilled strip can inhibit establishment of the seedling. In this picture the planter was left of the strip tillage row and planted in the residue, reducing the corn population. Strip tillage does not stir the soil as much as conventional tillage, but does so more than no-till. In general, tillage should be done only when necessary, because tillage negatively impacts desirable soil properties (e.g., soil structure), decreases surface soil moisture, decreases water infiltration rates, and increases sealing of soil by rainfall or irrigation.
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