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item Reeves, Donald
item Abrahamson Beese, Deborah
item Schomberg, Harry

Submitted to: Georgia Water Resources Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/12/2005
Publication Date: 4/25/2005
Citation: Reeves, D.W., M.L. Norfleet, D.A. Abrahamson Beese, H.H. Schomberg, H. Causarano, and G.L. Hawkins. 2005. Conservation tillage in Georgia: economics and water resources. Proceedings 2005 Georgia Water Resources Conference, University of Georgia, Athens GA, April 25-27, 2005.

Interpretive Summary: The state of Georgia is writing a state-wide water use plan to help conserve Georgia's water resources. Scientists at the USDA-ARS J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, Georgia, and other scientists from the USDA-NRCS in Texas and Georgia, and from Auburn, Alabama studied this plan and found that it does not mention how much water could be saved if all farmers in the state used conservation tillage to grow their crops. Conservation tillage leaves at least 30% of the soil covered with plant materials or residues after harvesting or when planting a crop. If all of the farmers in the state began using conservation tillage, this could potentially save enough water to supply 2.8 million people in Georgia with their water needs for a year because conservation tillage reduces runoff from the field by 30% or more. This water will then infiltrate into the soil and recharge the ground water and can also be used by the crops so that less irrigation is required. Conservation tillage also reduces soil erosion and the damage that erosion causes to lakes, ponds, streams, recreational facilities, and other areas. The state could potentially save $245 million a year by reducing soil erosion and improving our water quality. Research has shown that conservation tillage would benefit policy-makers, law-makers, farmers, Georgia residents, and the natural resources of the state. The state comprehensive water use plan should be modified to indicate the benefit of this valuable practice. This would help insure that we have enough water and clean water in the future as the population of Georgia continues to grow.

Technical Abstract: Conservation tillage systems have proven effective in reducing soil erosion, but additional benefits to agricultural production, water quality and quantity, and on- and off-site impacts of water loss are often ignored. In spite of known benefits, no specific mention has been made of the use of conservation tillage in the development of the current statewide comprehensive water use plan. We estimate that water savings from the use of conservation tillage on cropland currently in conventional tillage could result in potentially enough water to support 2.8 million people annually in Georgia, and that off-site benefits associated with reduced erosion and improved water quality could be as great as $245 million annually. Based upon these potential benefits, conservation tillage needs to be considered in the formulation of the current policy to conserve and protect the state's water supply for the future. Conservation tillage warrants recognition as a cost-effective practice to conserve Georgia's water resources.