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Tillage Gives Record Yields
May 6, 2003
Non-inversion deep tillage--a form of
conservation tillage that alleviates soil compaction while maintaining a crop
residue cover on the soil--can increase yields of cotton more than 20 percent,
according to studies by Agricultural
Research Service scientists in Auburn, Ala.
The scientists performed their experiments on the "Old Rotation,"
a cotton-growing experiment started by Auburn University professors more than
100 years ago. Throughout those years, there were consistent yields of cotton,
but the professors currently managing the study thought they could increase
per-acre yields. So they asked for help from ARS' Conservation Systems Research
Team at the agency's
Laboratory, located on the Auburn campus.
The specialized deep tillage, which was also used with new
herbicide-resistant varieties of cotton, corn and soybeans, gave the
researchers dramatic results. With the new system, cotton yields increased an
average of 22 percent. A record yield of 1,600 pounds of cotton lint per
acre--more than 3.3 bales--was measured on one plot in 2001. The previous
record, before no-till was introduced to the fields, was 1,490 pounds of cotton
lint per acre.
In addition, yields of corn and wheat grown in rotation with cotton also
increased. A record corn yield of 236 bushels per acre was harvested from one
plot in 1999, and record wheat yields were harvested in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Conservation tillage farming provides many economic and environmental
benefits to the farmer. Since the soil is not touched after the harvest until
the next growing season, there is less erosion because of the residue left on
the fields. Conservation tillage also requires less machinery and less labor
than conventional tillage.
You can learn more about the Old Rotation and conservation tillage in
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.