Fight Drought With Less Tillage

Besides being good for the environment, strip till and/or no-till can help you make more efficient use of available water, especially under drought conditions.

In studies conducted by Agricultural Research Service scientists at Tifton, Ga., conservation tillage limited rainfall runoff to less than 10 percent in cotton and peanut plots. In some cases, reduced tillage increased water infiltration into the soil by up to 50 percent when compared to conventional tillage.

Researchers Clint Truman and David Bosch found conventionally tilled plots had five times more soil and rainfall runoff than the conservation tillage plots. The scientists at the ARS Southeast Watershed Research Laboratory say this environmental protection idea dramatically reduces the amount of water that is washed from fields and can carry soil sediment, nutrients and pesticides into streams and lakes.

In strip-tilled fields, narrow rows that are 4 to 6 inches wide are made for no-tilling seed into the previous year’s plant- and cover-crop residue. This plant residue reduces water evaporation and intercepts raindrops from impacting directly on the soil surface. The result is decreased soil movement and a sharp reduction in the amount of pesticides and nutrients that are washed away by rain

Since southeastern soils have been intensively cropped for many years and tend to be drought-prone, they are often highly susceptible to erosion. Even though there is as much as 50 inches of rain per year, growers often have to irrigate to keep crops alive during extended drought periods.

As a result, strip-till, no-till and other…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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