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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Hatfield, Jerry

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 2004
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
Citation: Hatfield, J.L., Jeffries, A.T. 2004. Zone Tillage. In: Hillel, D. (Editor-in-Chief). Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment. Elsevier. Oxford, United Kingdom. Volume 4, p. 373-375.

Technical Abstract: Tillage is the act of disturbing the soil through some type of mechanical means. Development of tillage equipment has been to create a seed bed into which to place seed for rapid emergence, remove weeds, destroy crusts that impede the emergence of seedlings or prevent water or gases from moving into or out of the soil, or remove compaction layers from the upper soil profile. There is a large array of tillage tools that reshape the soil into a more compliant media for producing plants. Zone tillage is more often referred to as tilling only a narrow zone of the seedbed and is practiced on row crops more than small grains or forages. This practice can take on many different forms and uses an array of equipment and is often practiced as the primary tillage operation following crop harvest. Zone tillage units provide the following attributes in soil disturbance: 1) arrangement of shanks or rippers is placed in combination with coulters and disks to till only a select portion of the soil in a regular pattern; 2) crop residue is removed or incorporated in the tilled area leaving the soil surface with little residue in this zone; and 3) fertilizers may or may not be incorporated into the tilled area. The tilled area serves as the planting zone for the subsequent crop. Zone tillage disturbs a relatively small area compared to the broadcast tillage and the volume of the tilled area is more vertical than horizontal. Zone tillage is a practice that is beginning to emerge in areas in which protection from soil erosion and reducing tillage operations to maintain crop residue on the soil surface is necessary. Emergence of tillage systems that are directed toward soil management and creation of a seed zone that increases crop production efficiency and reduce environmental problems, e.g., erosion or nutrient loss, will continue to evolve.

Last Modified: 11/29/2015
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