Reduced Tillage Systems - Part One

“One of the reasons we’ve gone to that over the past several years, primarily, is because of economics, and our growers are trying to find more efficient ways of producing their crops.”

Conventional tillage systems could involve as many as half a dozen passes over a field before planting. The cornfield that we were in had one pass to shred cotton plant stalks.

Robert Lemon is an extension agronomist.

“The biggest hurdle to reduced tillage production systems has always been weed management, and we’ve got some technologies available today to take that bigger step now because they’ve got tools to control weeds.

Proposed production changes are usually met with caution.

“You may not have that perfect seed bed that you’re used to in the past, and that becomes a little bit scary when you’re putting seed in the ground because that’s a major expense for our producers today.”

Over the last 3 or 4 years the Brazos Valley has seen some innovative producers experiment with reduced tillage.

“Our primary crops are corn and cotton. Corn lends itself to a reduced tillage system probably better than cotton would simply because of some dynamics of corn, getting corn up earlier in the season than we would be planting cotton later in the season.”

Little successes lead to increased acceptance.

“But as these guys have worked with their corn, and seen where they can get that crop up and make a good yield in a reduced tillage system, they gain confidence there. They start to carry those principles over to their cotton production systems as well.”

Across the country, corn and soybeans are the most popular reduced tillage crops, but 60% of the cotton planted is also in a reduced tillage system.

“Those producers were saving about $20 per acre in fuel and labor costs. Those are 2003 dollars, if you look at that today with 2006 diesel dollars, you can see there’s going to be even more savings there as well.”


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