Why strip tillage?
Repeated, intensive tillage degrades soil structure and creates compacted layers than can restrict plant roots. Strip tillage targets soil disturbance to the planting zone and can help retain surface residue, preserve soil moisture, build soil structure, and reduce erosion. This approach can give vegetables a good start by warming soils, forming a good seed bed, stimulating nitrogen release, incorporating fertilizer, and killing weeds. The depth and tools used depends on field conditions. Deep zone tillage rips a narrow channel below compacted zones to break up pans (plow, disc, rototiller) and loosen soil in a ~12” zone to prepare a seedbed, often in one pass.
Watch Anu Rangarajan (Project Director) explain strip tillage equipment:
Research Focus: Growing cover crops for strip tillage
Winter-hardy, high biomass cover crops can provide valuable soil building for the following cash crop and beyond. Spring growth can bring lots of organicmatter and legume-fixed nitrogen ahead of summer vegetable plantings. When managed with RT, residues can protect soil from erosion, conserve moisture, and provide a weed suppressive mulch. How do we select, plant and manage these cover crops to best limit weeds while also supplying nitrogen?
We are evaluating overwintering legume cover crops (hairy vetch, crimson clover, austrian winter pea) grown alone or in mixture with cereal rye. We also compare these cover crops under different management strategies 1) mowed and left in place as a mulch, 2) chopped and removed for forage or mulch, and 3) repeatedly mowed and incorporated with conventional tillage. Research locations: Freeville, NY, Riverhead, NY, and East Lansing, MI
What are we learning?
Hear details about strip tillage tools and cover crop practices by listenting to the 2017 RT Webinar Series
Read more on the successess and challenges with managing cover crop-based mulches in the Summer 2017 Small Farm Quarterly.