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Editor’s Note: The following is the first-place essay from the first-ever Phoenix Rotary Equipment Ltd. conservation tillage essay contest. Alan Bonifas, Roseland, Neb., won first place and $2,500. Tara Norberg, Waverly, Iowa, placed second and won $1,500 with Lianne Appleby, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, earning third place and $1,000.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, many farmers in south-central Nebraska began drilling irrigation wells as they began flood irrigating row crops in furrows.
Each year after harvest, they would plow and eventually disc their cornfields, in preparation for planting the following year. Two cultivations were necessary every summer, the first to loosen the soil and control weeds, and the second for additional weed control and to build ridges for furrow irrigation. In the 1970s, many producers adopted the concept of planting on top of previous crop ridges (ridge till).
Today, this practice is still used and has gained popularity. While some farmers use ridge till because of furrow irrigation, many use it because of its other amazing benefits.
It is a management practice that has steadily gained acceptance. It is popular due to its soil and water conserving residue management. Yields are generally comparable to conventional tillage systems and equal to or exceeding those of no-till.
A specific management process is followed to formulate some of the benefits of the ridge-till practice. Producers sometimes chop or shred stocks to lessen the amount of residue on the ridge.
Seedbed tillage is limited to using row-cleaning devices that remove…