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