Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #103287


item Morrison Jr, John

Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Farmers need a management alternative between "minimum-tillage" and "no-till". Minimum-tillage usually involves one or several minimum-impact tillage operations to the entire surface of a field. No-till procedures leave the surface of a field intact, except for very narrow slots cut for seeding and fertilizer application. Both of these systems of crop production conserve soil, water, and environmental resources, but may not be appropriate or optimum for some combinations of soil, climate, and crops. A potential alternative is to use "row-zone tillage" to leave at least 75 percent of the field surface non-tilled and protected by old crop residues, while appropriate tillage procedures are conducted in the row-zones where the next crop will be planted. This paper explains row-zone tillage adaptability and management alternatives. Row-zone tillage implements are described. Current literature is reviewed and data from ongoing experiments at Temple, Texas with cotton and corn are summarized to show that row-zone systems can have positive effects on improving plant stand establishment and growth, as well as yields. This information will encourage expanded research, farmer acceptance, and machinery industry interest in providing new implements for row-zone systems.

Technical Abstract: Row Zone Tillage systems apply tillage procedures only to narrow strips of land where the next crop rows will be planted. Tilled zones are no more than 25 percent of the field area. The tillage procedures for crop production are conservative, wherein the soil remains partially covered with protective residues while crops are planted, fertilized, grown, and harvested in the row-zones. Specially adapted implements are being developed for these operations. There is a potential for minimizing farm machinery inventories. Limited crop response data are available from Canada and the USA. Row-zone tillage experiments were conducted at Temple, Texas, USA. For cotton in 1995, plant stand establishment was improved by row-zone chisel-knifing over no-till procedures, while 1996 trials produced no treatment differences. In 1996, corn plant growth was improved over conventional tillage by all four row-zone tillage treatments. 1997 corn trials on both small and farm plots produced greater emergence, growth, and yields under some conditions for row-zone treatments. 1998 farm-scale corn plots had improved mid-season crop growth and yields with both deep and shallow row-zone treatments, as compared to tandem disking and strict no-till. Use of row-zone tillage seems to provide more management options than no-till procedures, with benefits for environmental protection and crop production.