planted in the residue from the previous cropcorn. Click the image for
more information about it.
Conservation Tillage Has Immediate
Benefits By David
October 28, 2004
Many farmers believe that if they switch from conventional to
conservation (no-till) farming, it'll take several years before they start
seeing benefits. But Agricultural Research
Service scientists in Auburn, Ala., and cooperators have found that when
the move to no-till farming is done correctly, yields increase right away.
The ARS and Alabama
Agricultural Experiment Station scientists started their research in 2000
on a 20-acre field, with conventional tillage on half of the field and
conservation tillage on the other half. In a rotation of cotton and corn crops,
cotton grown with conservation tillage produced 12 to 24 percent higher yields
each year of the study's first three years, compared to the conventionally
The research project was led by ARS agronomist
Wayne Reeves, now research leader of the agency's J. Phil Campbell, Sr.
Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, Ga.; agricultural engineer
L. Raper of the ARS
Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn; and Auburn University soil scientist Joey N.
Shaw. The team discovered that as long as there's an adequate amount of residue
from a cover crop, transitioning to conservation tillage provides immediate
Farmers should not terminate the cover crop too early. Instead,
they should plant the cover crops within recommended planting windows and let
them grow until they're three to five feet tall and spring planting is three to
four weeks away. This will ensure that there is sufficient residue on the soil
surface to reduce soil erosion and trap rain to maintain adequate soil moisture
through the planting season.
The group has found that non-inversion plows--which will not
disturb the crop residue--can be used to address soil compaction problems. But
the farmer should stick to conservation tillage with high production of cover
crop residue as much as possible to reap the financial--and
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.