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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Is Deep Zone Tillage Agronomically Viable in Minnesota?)

item Dejong-hughes, Jodi
item Johnson, Jane

Submitted to: Crop Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/6/2009
Publication Date: 7/23/2009
Publication URL:
Citation: Dejong-Hughes, J., Johnson, J.M. 2009. Is Deep Zone Tillage Agronomically Viable in Minnesota? Crop Management. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Soil compaction is a side effect of modern farm equipment, which has increased dramatically in size and weight. Soil compaction can cause water to pool because of reduced drainage. Normally, tillage only disturbs the surface 8 to 12 inches. However, in an attempt to undo soil compaction farmers use aggressive tillage to the depth of 16 to 20 inches. Zone tillage is a specific form of deep tillage designed to only disturb the soil below the row. The soil and residue in the inter-row are undisturbed providing surface cover and protecting the soil against erosion. There is a public perception that this deep tillage will improve crop yield and a positive economic return. An on-farm, replicated study was conducted to determine if one deep zone tillage event improved corn and soybean yields at an upland and depression area, and to assess related soil parameters in response to tillage. Extension personnel and producers will benefit by avoiding compaction as it is difficult to recoup the expense of deep zone tillage in Midwestern soils.

Technical Abstract: Deep zone tillage is a strategy used to alleviate compaction problems, such as plow pans, and improve drainage. Midwestern soils rarely have a clearly defined plow-pan. Yields were measured for two seasons after zone tilling replications in a field. Zone till failed to increase corn yields and increased soybean yields slightly. A restrictive zone was not observed in this field. Minimal yield gains and potential economic loss were realized due to deep zone tillage. To the extent possible, it is better to avoid compaction as it is difficult to recoup the expense of deep zone tillage in Midwestern soils.

Last Modified: 05/25/2017
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