Strip-Till Improves Water Infiltration

Water infiltrates up to four times more quickly in strip-tilled vs. directed-seed and conventional, full-width tillage in corn and cotton grown at the Stiles Foundation Farm in Texas.

Mike Petersen, Orthman Manufacturing's precision tillage agronomist, reports that the the standard method of near saturated infiltration studies at the Stiles Farm are seeing 1.3 to 4 times faster infiltration rates in strip-till compared to conventionally tilled soils.

"In the corn on cotton rotation in the Direct Seeded plots we measured a decrease in water infiltration from what has been happening in the three years prior," Petersen says.

"We think that could be due to the steady decline in pore numbers that are less than 1mm in size as well as the 1 to 2 mm sized pores," Petersen says.

"The bulk density has edged up to 1.49 grams per cubic centimeter compared to 1.38 grams in the strip-till. The conventionaltilled ground is 1.66grams per cubic centimeter. These soils are silty clay with 52% clay, pretty tough soils to manage and work with to say the least.

"In the continuous-corn rotation, the direct-seeded infiltration conditions are up, then back down, where the strip-till has been slowly gaining with higher infiltration rates. We know when Texas has more moist winters and springs that the infiltration rates drop off in direct-seeded ground."

Petersen says the later winter of 2009 and early 2010 were both quite wet, slowing pre-plant fertilization. Seeding was done into very moist ground which cut reduce the likelihood of getting a respectable stand in clay soils. These conditions can damage the soils pores, which creates many problems for growers, he says.

All potentially damaging pores, ill timed tillage is not always good - this leads to numerous problems for the grower.