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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 seedbed, stimulating nitrogen release, incorporating fertilizer, and killing weeds. The depth and tools used depend 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

Overwintering cover crops can provide valuable soil building for the following cash crop and beyond. Spring growth can bring lots of organic matter and legume-fixed nitrogen ahead of summer vegetable plantings. When managed with strip tillage, 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 control weeds while also supplying nitrogen? Our research has evaluated overwintering legume cover crops, including hairy vetch, crimson clover, and Austrian winter pea, grown in mixture with cereal rye. We also compare 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?

Read more on the successes and challenges with managing cover crop-based mulches in the Summer 2017 Small Farm Quarterly.

Hear details about strip tillage tools and cover crop practices by listening to the 2017 RT Webinar Series

Ryan Maher

Ryan began with the SFP in the summer of 2013 and focuses on research and extension in soil health practices for vegetables. He is a Baltimore native with family and educational ties to CNY. After graduating from SUNY-ESF in 2003 he spent two summers training on diversified vegetable farms, first in SW Oregon and then in the Boston metro area. In 2007, he graduated from Iowa State with an MS in Sustainable Agriculture focusing on soils in native grassland restorations. He spent five years with the USDA-ARS in St. Paul MN, coordinating research on nutrient cycling in perennial forage crops. Ryan, his wife Jackie, and daughters Gia and Olive are happy to settle in CNY and enjoy the food, farms, forested hills, and water of the Finger Lakes region.
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1 Comment

  1. Lloyd Bronson on September 18, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I am glad that your article mentions that strip-tillage offers vegetables a good start by warming the soil it is planted in. My older brother works at the old family ranch and is looking for ways to increase the growth of the produce. I’ll send your article to him in order to assist him in the matter!

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