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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: If It Was Easy, Everybody Would Be Doing It: Why Conservation Tillage Has Not Been Adopted by Southern High Plains Producers

item Van Pelt, Robert

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 2, 2006
Publication Date: June 27, 2006
Citation: Van Pelt, R.S. 2006. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it: Why conservation tillage has not been adopted by Southern High Plains producers [abstract]. 28th Southern Conservation Systems Conference, June 26-28, 2006, Bushland, Texas. p. 239.

Technical Abstract: Conservation tillage has been widely adopted in many regions of North America. Well documented benefits of energy savings, erosion control, and improved infiltration have profited producers who have adopted conservation tillage systems elsewhere and generated some interest among producers in the southernmost areas of the Southern High Plains (SHP) of Texas. In spite of this interest, few producers in the SHP have adopted conservation tillage. The southern end of the SHP is characterized by sandy loam soils with less than 0.5 % organic carbon formed under a thermic soil temperature regime, less than 19” of average annual rainfall, and a cotton monoculture. Under dryland conditions in the SHP, cotton generally produces less than 1500 lbs ac-1 of crop residue which is only about 20 % of the Soil Conditioning Index (SCI) maintenance amount required to maintain steady state soil carbon reserves. Research conducted at the USDA-ARS Big Spring Field Station (BSFS) over the last 5 years indicates that the time required to successfully convert from conventional tillage to no-till systems may be exceptionally long under these conditions. A field at the BSFS that was planted with native grass for 50 years was deep chiseled and disc plowed in 2000 and has subsequently been maintained in a no-till system. Cotton yields from this field have been less than half the yield from an adjacent field with the same planting patterns maintained under conventional tillage. Agricultural producers cannot afford the yield losses we have experienced, and so remain resistant to change.

Last Modified: 4/17/2015
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