Tillage Alternatives

Tillage has long been used to incorporate crop residues, prepare a seedbed, control weeds, and loosen the soil. However, in accomplishing these goals, tillage also reduces soil organic matter, disrupts soil structure, and leaves the soil surface prone to wind and water erosion. Systems that reduce or even eliminate tillage, while maintaining yields, have been developed for some crops and regions. These systems have the potential to build soil quality and reduce erosion.

Featured Tillage Alternatives Publications

  • Precision Nitrogen Application: Eric Odberg Case Study

    Yorgey, G., S. Kantor, K. Painter, H. Davis, and L. Bernacchi. 2014. Video and text farmer case study. Eric Odberg is a fourth generation farmer who practices no-till management and was an early adopter of variable rate nitrogen (VRN) application in the dryland production region of the Pacific Northwest.

  • High Residue Farming Under Irrigation: Pest Management Considerations (series 4 of 4)

    This publication is the fourth in a series on high residue farming (HRF), for farmers who are interested in HRF. This publication gives an overview of the effects of adopting HRF on the management of weeds, insects, and diseases. EM074E.

  • High Residue Farming Under Irrigation: Residue Management through Planting (series 3 of 4)

    This publication is the third in a series on high residue farming (HRF), for farmers who are interested in HRF. It discusses residue management after harvest and explains how to plant crops into high residue conditions with a planter or drill. It also covers modifications for existing equipment such as planters and drills, and soil fertility adjustments that may be necessary. EM073E.

  • High Residue Farming Under Irrigation: Crop Rotation (series 2 of 4)

    This publication is the second in a series on high residue farming (HRF), for farmers who are interested in HRF. It discusses how to choose a cropping sequence, choosing specific cover crops, and special crop considerations for irrigated cropping systems in the far western United States. It includes a very helpful table of crops that shows the relative difficulty of specific rotations. EM072E.

  • High Residue Farming Under Irrigation: What and Why (series 1 of 4)

    This publication is the first in a series on high residue farming (HRF), for farmers who are interested in HRF. It provides an overview of HRF, including the benefits and challenges. It also discusses some special considerations for HRF in the irrigated agriculture regions of the far western United States. EM071E.

  • High Residue Farming under Irrigation: Strip-till

    Extension Bulletin EM036E. Strip-tillage is a low-impact cultivation technique suited to irrigated land with a lot of residue from a previous crop. A strip-till system creates both clean-till and high-residue conditions in the same field, taking advantage of both systems while minimizing drawbacks. This publication discusses the benefits of this system, as well as equipment needed, general management concerns, and how to get started. A budget is also included to help growers determine the relative net cost of implementing this system. Originally published Jan 2011; revised Sept 2014.

  • Site-Specific Trade-offs of Harvesting Cereal Residues as Biofuel Feedstocks in Dryland Annual Cropping Systems of the Pacific Northwest, USA

    Huggins, D.R., C.E. Kruger, K.M. Painter, D.P. Uberuaga. BioEnergy Research. June 2014, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 598-608.

  • Management to Reduce N2O Emissions in Organic Vegetable Production Systems

    Cogger, C., A. Fortuna, D. Collins. Feb 27, 2014. The second of a two-part webinar series on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Soil Quality in Long-term Integrated and Transitional Reduced Tillage Organic Systems.

    This is the focus of our current research. How do different organic vegetable production systems affect N2O emissions, and how do other outcomes of those systems affect their potential for adoption?

    • Systems include full tillage with high-carbon amendment (compost), full tillage with low carbon amendment (broiler litter), pasture-vegetable rotation, and reduced tillage cover crop mulch.
    • Measurements include N2O and CO2 emissions, soil N, microbial ecology focused on denitrification organisms, crop yield, and soil quality. Measurements are focused on key times during the season, including amendment application and tillage, irrigation, and freeze-thaw.

    Intended audience is other researchers, and interested extension faculty and farmers.

  • Why the Concern about Nitrous Oxide Emissions?

    Cogger, C., A. Fortuna, D. Collins. Feb 25, 2014. The first of a two-part webinar series on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Soil Quality in Long-term Integrated and Transitional Reduced Tillage Organic Systems.

    Topics for this webinar include:

    • Source and properties of N2O as a greenhouse gas, its relative contribution to global
    • warming, and the role of agriculture in N2O emissions
    • Review of the nitrogen cycle and the production of N2O
    • The relationship between organic practices and N2O production
    • How we measure N2O emissions

    Intended audience is extension faculty and farmers who want a big picture perspective on why we’re interested in nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Life cycle assessment of the potential carbon credit from no- and reduced-tillage winter wheat-based cropping systems in Eastern Washington State

    Zaher, U, C. Stockle, K. Painter, S. Higgins. Agricultural Systems. November 2013. Volume 122, pages 73-78.

  • Soil carbon sequestration in the dryland cropping region of the Pacific Northwest

    Brown, T.T., and D.R. Huggins. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 2012 67(5):406-415; doi:10.2489/jswc.67.5.406.

  • Carbon storage and nitrous oxide emissions of cropping systems in eastern Washington: A simulation study

    Stöckle, C., S. Higgins, A. Kemanian, R. Nelson, D. Huggins, J. Marcos, and H. Collins. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 2012 67(5):365-377; doi:10.2489/jswc.67.5.365.

  • Reduced Tillage on Organic Farms Virtual Field Day

    WSU researchers and extension educators are researching different methods for reducing tillage in organic vegetable production. This video demonstrates termination of barley and vetch cover crops with a roller/crimper and flail mower.

  • The Second Solution: Agriculture’s Role – video featuring eastern Washington farmer John Aeschliman

    The Northwest Biocarbon Initiative aims to galvanize farmers, foresters, community leaders, and thinkers to demonstrate the essential role that natural systems can play in ensuring long-term climate stability. The Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources is part of this collaboration with several of the Northwest’s leading conservation organizations who see this effort as a logical extension of our region’s rich natural resource heritage and our history of groundbreaking innovation and stewardship.

  • High Residue Farming under Irrigation

    Andy McGuire, Agricultural Systems Educator WSU Extension. Program website.

Additional Tillage Alternatives Publications

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