Zone-Till Questions You Need Answers To, But Didn’t Know Who To Ask

Because of growing interest in zone tillage, we asked Ray Rawson to answer the most frequently asked questions about this in-row tilling concept. A veteran no-tiller from Farwell, Mich., Rawson pioneered this unique reduced tillage system and also created the Zone-Builder subsoiler.

Q: When is it better to add zone tillage instead of going with just pure no-till?

A: Use zone tillage when the soil structure isn’t friendly or when your ground has been worked too much. In these cases, zone tillage will give better soil-to-seed contact and help warm up the soil structure in cooler areas.

A farmer can do in-row fertility at the same time, putting down fertilizer in a warm, moist area. This promotes rapid development of root structure and provides a good base for root development.

Q: Should you ever consider using a zone till and no-till combination together?

A: Yes. A combination of these two systems can be used in areas with good soil structure and with warm soil without heavy cover.

Q: When do you recommend using a one-pass row-zone system? A two-pass system with subsoiling?

A: The one-pass system works well in the South because of generally warmer temperatures. In the North, with frequent heavy rains and cool temperatures, zone tillage helps aerate the soil so the farmer can come back in and plant more quickly.

In the two-pass system, the first pass involves making a 12- to 18-inch slot through the soil in the fall to break up the natural hardpan. This…

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