Mow-Plow Tillage--The Best of Both Worlds
By Kathryn Barry
June 18, 1997
A new tillage technique combines the
best of conventional and conservation tillage techniques to control both weeds
and erosion on wheat fields in the Pacific Northwest.
With the new mow-plow method, a standard moldboard plow, pulled
by a tractor, deeply tills the soil and buries weed seeds so they dont
sprout. But soil-protecting stems, stalks and other residue from a previous
crop dont get buried. Thats because of a modified combine header
attached to the front of the tractor. The header cuts and lifts the old stubble
that lies in the plows path and dumps it on the adjacent, freshly plowed
furrow. There it blankets the soil, shielding it from the erosive forces of
wind and rain.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research
Service developed the mow-plow method for use in the 4.5-million-acre
wheat-growing region of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. This region receives
little rainfall. Land is left fallow every other year to collect water for the
next years wheat crop. But the soil freezes during winter, when rain and
melting snow often cant soak into the soil. Instead, the water threatens
to wash away the soil--up to 150 tons an acre. Normally, farmers leave crop
residue on the field as long as possible, but weeds can take over during the
The ARS scientists are based at the agencys
Columbia Plateau Conservation Research
Center in Pendleton, Ore. An article about the mow-plow method and the
scientists related research to reduce erosion appears in the June issue
of Agricultural Research magazine.
The magazine can be viewed on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Dale E. Wilkins, USDA-ARS Columbia Plateau
Conservation Research Center, PO Box 370, Pendleton, Ore., phone (541)
278-3292, fax (541) 278-3795, firstname.lastname@example.org.