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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Ridge Tillage for Corn and Soybean Production: Environmental Quality Impacts

Authors
item Hatfield, Jerry
item Allmaras, Raymond
item Rehm, George - UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
item Lowery, Birl - UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

Submitted to: Soil & Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 4, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: There is a strong mandate to reduce water quality damage related to use of agrichemicals in crop production. Damages may relate to both surface and groundwaters. Judicial use of tillage systems, crop rotations, and agrichemicals (amount of material used, time of application, chemical properties of the agrichemical, and method of application) must all be evaluated. Existing literature shows that the ridge tillage system has significant advantages for managing the amount of herbicide and fertilizer used, the time and frequency of application, and the method of application. Ridge tillage also offers joint use of mechanical and chemical weed control. This information will be useful to scientists, farmers, and conservation planners for developing ridge tillage systems suitable for the local crop, landscape, soil, and climatic conditions.

Technical Abstract: Tillage practices are needed to increase agronomic stability and productivity while enhancing the environment. Ridge tillage has been demonstrated as an effective agronomic practice; some have described it as a miniature precision agriculture. Environmental impacts have generally been positive but the results vary depending upon soil and climatic factors. Ridge tillage changes soil temperature and water patterns compare to no-till and full width - moldboard/ chisel plowing or disking for primary tillage. These changes lead to an improved soil environment for crop emergence and early growth because of warmer soil temperatures in cool climates and better water relations in both poorly-drained and moderately well-drained soils. While increased soil water infiltration in the interrow can lead to increased leaching and greater loading of nitrates and herbicides at the bottom of the root zone, controlled studies suggest that ridge tillage with precise agrichemical placement can provide a favorable environmental impact. Moreover, the combined herbicide and cultivation for weed control reduces the treated area and overall application for herbicides. Ridge tillage was evaluated at a number of field locations of the Management Systems Evaluation Areas program to assess both agronomic and environmental impacts. A special effort in these ridge tillage evaluations was to trace agrichemical movement from the site of application within the soil and into the surficial aquifer. In most instances ridge tillage decreased agrichemicals leaching and the negative environmental impact.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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