Strip tillage for high-residue irrigated cropping systems
Why Intensely Irrigated Areas Have Been Slow to Adopt Reduced Tillage
Residue can interfere with water movement in corrugates or furrows, causing irrigation management problems, nonuniform irrigation, and likely reduced yields. Sprinkler-irrigated areas do not have this problem. Strip tillage works with furrow irrigation when all the residue is removed with crops such as alfalfa and corn silage. Small-seeded high-value crops require better seed to soil contact than large-seed crops and require more management when considering strip tillage.
click image to zoomFrom McGuire (2009)Figure 11. Effect of removing residue and tillage on increasing soil-growing degree day accumulation in corn. To help keep residue from reducing seed to soil contact, consider placing row cleaners in front of the strip tillage shanks (figure 6), as well as in front of the planter (figure 12). To reduce risk associated with the strip tillage, start with a small acreage until you have worked out system issues. This may mean borrowing equipment or contracting with someone with experience until you get the problems worked out.
click image to zoomO. Steve NorbergFigure 12. Row cleaners (or residue managers) mounted on the front of the planter unit help move the residue away from the planted area. The row cleaners should be adjusted down just enough to move the residue away without taking along very much soil. Pointers That Will Lead to Success
• Select suitable fields. Strip tillage is not suitable when proper residue management has not been done on the field. For example, significant piles of chaff will likely reduce stands. Fields that were left in bad condition, such as those with deep ruts from a wet harvest, may require conventional tillage before or instead of strip tillage. Strip tillage after other tillage may not work as well, since it was designed to work in a firm field.
click image to zoomFrom McGuire (2008)Figure 13. Comparison of soil temperatures in no-tillage and fall strip tillage systems. • Manage residue. Planning your future crop rotations will help you avoid problems. When harvesting the crop previous to strip tillage, ensure that residue is evenly spread. Many times leaving the residue attached to the ground will aid in reducing plugging of strip tillage equipment. Residue levels may become more than strip tillage and planting can handle especially in small-seeded crops. In these situations, consider grazing, baling, or use of a rolling stalk chopper or turbo till to reduce size and total amount of residue. All these methods are accomplished without stirring the soil aggressively and will assist in keeping residues to a workable level. If you are going to graze cattle on the residue, be aware that volunteer wheat root mass may be significant enough to cause issues with spring strip tillage. A timely herbicide application may reduce problems next spring.
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