Consider the strip-tillage alternative
Comparison of Strip-Tillage to Other Tillage Systems
Strip-tillage creates soil conditions similar to ridge tillage because it clears soils in the tilled row prior to planting. However, the strip-tillage row zone is fl at to slightly elevated, eliminating the problems that can occur with ridge-till when machinery crosses ridges as well as the need to rebuild ridges with row-crop cultivation.
The performance of strip-tillage as compared to conventional and conservation tillage systems still needs evaluation, because it is relatively new. However, some research shows that strip-tillage on sandy loam soils provided yields similar to fall moldboard plowing and higher than no-till. On silt loam and clay loam soils, strip-tillage yield was intermediate to fall moldboard plowing and no-till systems.
The research also showed that the yield of corn following crops with high residue such as corn, small grains, or hay increased by as much as 10 percent when a 6-inch band of corn residue was cleared from the row’s area using planter-mounted furrowers. The choice of fall strip-tillage is better suited to corn after small grains, alfalfa, red clover, or corn planted into cold, wet soils.
Strip-tillage after row crops is more adaptable if the row spacing is similar to the previous row crop spacing. In addition, using similar row spacing will help to control wheel traffic within the inter-rows. (See Iowa State University Extension Publication PM-1901b, “Understanding and Managing Soil Compaction.”)
The economic value of strip-tillage is very much limited to the input associated with tillage operations. Strip-tillage has few field operations (till/fertilizer application, planting, weed control, harvest) similar to no-till. There may be a significant difference in power and fuel required per acre, however, depending on the depth of tillage and fertilizer incorporation. Tractor power and energy requirements to pull subsurface injection knives are greater than for shallow stirring of soil with a no-till planter following broadcast fertilizer application.
The yield under strip-tillage has a very limited advantage over no-till, depending on the weather conditions and soil moisture status. The improvement in yield under strip-tillage is due to the combined effect of both nutrient placement and soil conditions of the tilled zone. Many studies showed a small increase in corn yield over no-till. If strip-tillage is conducted in the fall, conflicting labor requirements between harvest and fall tillage can make labor scarce and thus more costly and valuable. In addition, the precision of locating rows in the same fall-tilled strips during the following spring planting is very important to achieve the benefit of strip-tillage.
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