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Evaluate tillage systems, concepts

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By Noel Mues

UNL Extension Educator

There are a variety of tillage systems available for crop production. While tillage operations are performed for various reasons, producers must evaluate the need for each and every field operation conducted in order to improve profitability. In addition, the effects of the tillage operations on the soil system and the environment must be considered. More information is available about the following tillage systems on the UNL CropWatch website at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/tillage/home:

--Plow;

--Chisel;

--Disk (and/or Field Cultivate);

--Stubble Mulch;

--Ridge Plant;

--Strip-till; and

--No-till.

Tillage of the soil has been used to prepare a seedbed, kill weeds, incorporate nutrients, and manage crop residues. The goal of the tillage system has been to provide a proper environment for seed germination and root growth for crop production.

Throughout the years, tillage systems have changed as new technologies have become available and the costs of fuel and labor increased. With adoption of reduced tillage systems, many producers are realizing the negative effects of tillage as they see the soil and water conservation benefits of leaving the residue on the soil surface. No-till crop production systems leave the most residue and often prove to be the most profitable methods of crop production.

Tillage breaks up soil structure and destroys residue. With no-till, the improved soil structure and moisture conserving residue cover makes more water available for crop production by improving infiltration and decreasing evaporation from the soil surface. Tillage reduces pore spaces in the soil profile leading to other negative effects such as compaction and reduced water holding capacity.

Date: 2/25/2013



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