Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 15, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Ridge-till is a soil and water conservation method that leaves a protective cover of old crop stalks on the soil surface during the winter to lessen soil moisture loss from evaporation and to reduce soil erosion. With ridge-till, row crops are grown yearly on the same ridge without disking under stalks. Spring planting is done by scraping 1 to 2 inches of soil from the ridge to provide a clean, moist, and relatively warm seedbed for earlier seed germination. Ridges are restored during cultivation when plants have 6-8 leaves and furrow soil is pushed up to the base of plants. Ridge-till was investigated for adaptability to furrow irrigation on the Southern High Plains at Bushland, TX by being compared with conventional disking to cover stalks, then forming new planting ridges and irrigation furrows. Ridge-till sorghum seed germinated 1 to 2 days earlier and grain yields (7400 lb/ac) were higher than with conventional new-ridge planting at 6400 lb/ac. Ridge-till field operation costs were $20/acre lower than with new ridges largely because precision cultivation reduced chemical weed control expense. Also, ridge-till reduced the need for an irrigation before planting, thus saving irrigation costs. Ridge-till benefits the grower with more net income through higher grain yield and lower costs along with reducing the hazard of full chemical weed control.
Technical Abstract: Planting of row crops on permanent ridges was developed primarily in the cornbelt, but is being adapted for graded furrow irrigation. This study was conducted during 1992-95 on the Southern High Plains at Bushland, TX, to determine the effect of permanent ridge-furrows on between-crop soil water storage, irrigation intake, evapotranspiration (ET), grain yield, and dwater use efficiency (WUE) with grain sorghum; and to determine effect of precision cultivation with reduced herbicide application for weed control. Treatments were ridge-till (RT), conventionally tilled bed planting (BED), and flat planting (FLAT) with furrows opened during cultivation on a 550 m (1800 ft) furrow run. Seedling emergence and heading were 1-2 days earlier for RT in 2 of 3 yrs. Grain yields averaged highest for RT at 7.91 Mg/ha (7400 lb/ac) compared with 7.17 and 7.54 Mg/ha (6380 and 6710 lb/ac) for BED and FLAT treatments, respectively. The WUE averaged 1.26, 1.08, and 1.19 kg/m**3 (285, 244, and 269 lb/ac-in) for RT, BED, AND FLAT treatments respectively. The WUE for RT was significantly higher than for the BED treatment. The RT cultural operation and planting costs were about $50.20/ha ($20.30/ac) lower than for BED planting while FLAT planting treatment costs were $12.30/ha (5.00/ac) lower than BED planting. RT and FLAT planting were less dependent on timely rainfall to provide a moist seed zone than was BED planting. Precision cultivation successfully controlled 90-95% of weeds compared with 95-98% control with atrazine herbicide.