Strip Tillage Protocol Improves Fertilizer Yield Margin

This is a neat protocol that canbe easily adapted to a range of crops. It serves to both reduce the fertilizer consumption while supportingincreased yields.   It comes awfullyclose to hand tilling methods which naturally controls fertilizer usage.

I am surprised that we do not asyet use cross linked polymer capsules that hold individual seeds and nutrientsto sow our crops.  Just because it can bedone does not mean it is cheap enough.  Sucha system delivers the seed and awaits moisture to activate a perfect growingmedium.  I first saw it demoed for treeplanting.

Once the equipment is in use,other applications will soon follow.

New Farming MethodTo Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Increase Farm Yields

by Staff Writers

Columbia MO(SPX) Jan 17, 2011

Strip tillage is the practice of tilling a field in strips up to a footwide and eight to nine inches deep, rather than tilling the entire field, sothat crop residues can be left on the surface of most of the field.

U.S. agricultural practicescreate 58 percent of nitrous oxide in the world, which is the third mostprevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Scientists believe nitrous oxidecontributes to global warming about 300 times more than carbon dioxide.

New practices and products have been introduced to address this issue,but farmers do not have the time or profit margins to experiment withideas that may ultimately hurt the "bottom line."

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have foundmethods to help farmers reduce those emissions while also increasing corn grainproduction.

At the University of Missouri Greenley Research Center in northeastMissouri, Kelly Nelson, a research agronomist and associate professor in the MUDivision of Plant Sciences,monitored fields of poorly drained claypan soil that were planted with cornafter soybean.

One field was "strip tilled" with nitrogen fertilizer placedin a band in the soil, while another field was left untilled with a surfaceapplication of nitrogen fertilizer. The research team found that strip tillageand banded fertilizer significantly reduced the amount of greenhouse gasesemitted per bushel of corn grain production, when compared to that of surfaceapplied no-till treatments.

Strip tillage is the practice of tilling a field in strips up to a footwide and eight to nine inches deep, rather than tilling the entire field, sothat crop residues can be left on the surface of most of the field.

By planting corn into those strips, and adding fertilizer during theprocess, farmers can use less energy,reduce soil erosion and conserve soil moisture in a large area of the field.Additionally, the nitrogen stays deep in the soil, where it less susceptible toenvironmental loss.

"This tells us that more efficient fertilizer use is needed tomaintain productivity and profitability," said Nelson. "We saw grainyields increase, and this is important when it comes to nitrous oxide emissionsand the amount of food produced."

Peter Motavalli, associate professor in the MU Department of Soil,Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, directed the research focused onmeasurements of soil nitrous oxide emissions and says the results are anotherpiece of information that can help farmers select management options that mayincrease agricultural production and economic returns while also reducingenvironmental impacts with use of nitrogen fertilizer.

The research was conducted during above average rainfall growingseasons from 2008 to 2010 in poorly-drained soils so the results of between 2.4to 3.8 percent cumulative loss of the applied fertilizer N as nitrous oxide Nare probably relatively high for conditions in Missouri.

"The main goal for our team has been to identify agriculturalpractices that maintain or increase production while reducing the environmentalimpact," Motavalli said.

"There hasn't been much data on greenhouse gas emissions forMissouri, and we hope to provide information on how much nitrogen is being lostas nitrous oxide with different agricultural practices so growers can makeinformed choices depending on their farm operation and environmentalconditions."

Nelson, Motavalli, and Pat Nash, an MU graduate student, presented theresults of their three-year study, "Use of Strip Tillage to Increase CornProduction and Reduce Soil Nitrous Oxide Emissions," at the nationalmeetings of the American Society of Agronomy in November and at the MissouriCrop Management Conference in December.

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