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Reduced Tillage in Vegetables

A Yeomans plow can be used for zone tillage. (Freeville, NY)

What is reduced tillage?

Reduced tillage is any practice which reduces intensity, frequency, and/or area disturbed over time.

Reduced tillage practices take many forms. They can be applied at the farm scale, or fit in only a part of the rotation. How they take shape depends on farm size, field characteristics, available equipment and materials, skills, and labor.


 What are some reduced tillage practices?

Restricting tillage to beds can be a good way to reduce area disturbed. (Freeville, NY)

Continuous no-till — Small scale, intensive methods with no tillage year after year.

Semi-permanent/permanent beds — Tillage targeted to beds and field traffic restricted to between-bed areas, year after year (pathways managed with cultivation, mulch, or sod).

Shallow, non-inversion tillage — e.g. chisel plow, field cultivator

Strip/zone tillage — Tillage targeted to the planting row. e.g. subsoiler, Yeomans plow, zone building

Tarping — Applying plastic to soil and removing before planting.

A Yeomans shank can be used for strip tillage and breaking up compacted soil layers. Photo by Ryan Maher.

Heavy mulching with organic materials — e.g. straw, hay, compost

Relay planting — Planting a cover crop directly into a vegetable crop.

Direct planting into cover crops — Planting a vegetable crop directly into killed, low-residue cover crops.

Cover crop mulching — Planting a vegetable crop into killed, high-residue cover crops (e.g. rye-vetch mulch)