Loss in Fall Tillage
March 8, 2004
Using a chisel plow during fall tillage
will maintain surface residue and minimize soil disturbance, which in turn will
reduce carbon dioxide loss, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists in
Plant physiologist Stephen A. Prior and agricultural engineer Randy L. Raper
of the ARS National Soil
Dynamics Laboratory at Auburn are studying CO2 loss and how it relates to
the farm equipment used and the time of year tillage takes place. While some
CO2 always escapes to the atmosphere, losing too much of it during tillage may
hurt the environment and can reduce soil productivity.
The scientists looked at loamy sand soil in east-central Alabama to see how
much CO2 escaped due to the plowing of a grain sorghum field. Discing caused
more CO2 release than chisel plowing, because greater soil disturbance results
from discing. Plots of land that were not tilled had low levels of CO2 loss,
similar to those of fields that were chisel plowed.
Reduced CO2 loss was also found in plots where tillage was delayed until the
spring. Leaving the crop residue in place over the winter months and postponing
tillage until spring slows residue decomposition and protects the soil during
information about this research can be found in the March 2004 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.