Strip tillage, cover crops enhance soil

A young peanut crop growing in a strip-tilled field. Research shows that strip tillage, along with cover crops, can reduce erosion and increase water infiltration.
Scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Tifton, Georgia, have found that strip tillage and cover crop are important for the climate change in the southeast United States.

During the period from 2000-09, scientists studied surface runoff and sediment losses. Dinku Endale, an agricultural engineer with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and his ARS colleagues David Bosch, Thomas Potter and Timothy Strickland collected runoff from peanut and cotton crops that were either conventionally tilled or strip-tilled.

Conventional tillage mixes all crop residues into soil while strip tillage only mixes where the seeds will be planted, leaving the rest of the soil alone.

The study found that strip tillage produced less surface runoff (12 percent) while conventional tillage was 20 percent.

Cover crops helped to reduce the erosion as well. The sediment loss with strip tillage was also seen to be better, never exceeding the threshold, but conventionally tilled fields failed in three out of the 10 years the scientists were doing the study.

The combination of expectant climate change and farmers using conventional tillage as a natural weed control strategy due to increased herbicide-resistant weeds will increase runoff and soil erosion.

Organizations in this story

United States Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave SW Washington, DC - 20250

USDA AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE 1104 North Western Avenue Wenatchee, WA - 98801

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