A technique that’s a hybrid between tilling the soil and practicing no-till outperforms the latter when it comes to improving soil quality. This news release from the American Society of Agronomy says a new five-year study shows the benefits of strip-till, which has only the crop rows where seeds will be planted being tilled.
“Strip-till is in between the two systems where you combine the benefits of each,” said Fabián Fernández of the University of Minnesota. “You have some of the soil conservation benefits derived from left over plant tissue on the soil surface and undisturbed soil structure in the in-between row positions where you don’t till. And then you have the benefits of a better seedbed from tilling the crop rows where you’re going to plant.”
He added that for typical Midwest springs, tilled crop rows would be warmer and a bit dryer earlier so farmers can get in and plant. The farmers also won’t need special equipment to deal with the leftover plant matter, called residue, in the crops rows like they do when they plant in no-till.
The long-term effects of these different methods can have impacts on soil properties, nutrient and water uptake, yield, and ultimately farmers’ profit — but research on them is lacking.
The study showed soil organic matter content was 8.6 percent greater in the strip-till plots when compared to the no-till plots. Furthermore, bulk density was reduced by 4 percent and penetration resistance, the force a root must exert to move in the soil, decreased by 18 percent.