Consider the strip-tillage alternative
Strip-tillage, which creates a soil environment that enhances seed germination, is a new alternative to no-till in areas where poorly drained soils are dominant. Where soil moisture conditions are suitable, strip-tillage creates narrow-width tilled strips, traditionally in the fall, to increase early spring soil evaporation and soil temperature in the top 2 inches. This is particularly effective in poorly drained wet soils, where slightly raised soil strips are created by normally available farm equipment such as anhydrous knives, disks, coulters, tool bars or manure injection equipment. Both fertilizer application and strip-tillage can be performed in one operation. The basic requirements for strip-tillage to be effective are accuracy in matching tillage equipment on the tool bar with the planter and placement of seeds in the tilled zones.
Concept of Strip-tillage
Traditionally, in the fall, anhydrous ammonia injection knives, fluted coulters, or other tool attachments are used to create residue-free strips and tilled zones that are approximately 6 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches deep. In the spring, seeds are planted directly in the same strips. Fertilizers may be incorporated while tilling these strips.
This concept is similar to another system, zone-till, with one exception. In zone-till, multiple fluted coulters create a zone that is approximately 1 to 2 inches deep and 8 inches wide and free of residue. These coulters operate at shallow depths to avoid creating void pockets below the seed. Another variation involves making a deep vertical slit with a thin profile knife centered in the middle of an 8-inch tilled zone. Zone-till can be achieved by using a planter equipped with fluted coulters.
Coulters may be operated 2 or 3 inches to 6 inches deep if the soil is dry. Farmers in southeastern states with particularly compacted soils have used in-row sub-soiling with planter-mounted shanks in each row to create a tilled zone 12 inches deep.
Seeds are then planted in the disturbed zone directly behind the shanks. This system is different from the above two systems in that it is often used with the full width conventional tillage system. Studies have shown corn is more susceptible to delayed germination or disease in cool soil temperatures when soil is poorly drained and there is high no-till residue cover. Other studies show that by removing residue over the row or disturbing a narrow zone (6 to 8 inches wide) the seedbed warms up more rapidly. This can help corn in the early part of the growing season; in some cases corn grain yield improved over no-till simply due to improved soil temperature.
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