I am following your progress on organic no-till here in Ontario
but don't think that I'm ready to go that far yet. Here conventional
no tillers have more problems with slug damage and root insect
problems because of the increased biomass on top of the soil.
I think that this could be worse in an organic situation.
My question concerns strip tillage of corn on fall plowed
(and leveled) land. Conventional growers are having good luck
here with strip tillage, but they do it on baled wheat ground
with no clover and have to spray more herbicides to kill tough
I plowed my clover and leveled it with a disc and cultivator
this fall and intend to follow up in the spring with a modified
scuffler (with wavy coulters, markers and shorter knives).
This scuffler/strip tiller would prepare weed-free strips
and seed beds for the corn planter (fitted with no-till coulters
also). My goals are to reduce tillage in the spring, and most
of all, reduce soil compaction on the heavier soils, especially
in a wet spring (since I can use a smaller tractor and I'm
not running over the seed bed with the tractor tires). Then,
after the corn is up, I could scuffle in between the strips.
Those weedy strips have then also provided wind and water
erosion protection in the meantime.
Have you had any experience with this type of system in the
past, and will it work?
Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada
My experience here in Pennsylvania has been that we have
fewer slug problems because we rotate our tillage. By that
I mean we are not in a continuous no-till system but have
complete no-till in some years and plow till in others. This,
along with a diverse crop and cover crop rotation, seems to
discourage the buildup of their populations. That's not to
say we don't have some problems or that we don't have other
issues to deal with…like increased bird damage (not
As far as your strip till ideas go, I have no experience
with a scuffler at all. But, here is what I think is most
likely to happen; after all, weeds are weeds in any system
and what we are really talking about is modifications on a
If your strip-tilled areas (the seed zone for your crop)
is clean when you plant and can be kept relatively weed-free
until the crop is up and growing, the system should work.
As far as the weedy areas in between the rows go, if you can
remove them or knock them down before they can compete with
your crop for water, nutrients or sunlight, they should be
no problem. I like the idea of strip tillage and maintaining
crop zones and wheel-traffic zones; it makes a lot of sense.
I would encourage you to think ahead to the next phase where
you might consider replacing the "weed zone" between
the strip tilled "crop zone" with a cover crop;
some sort of clover or legume that would benefit the system
in some way more than just leaving the weeds there to protect
the soil (although they will do that).
I do have concerns over a long-term rotation—where
the strip tillage is the only weed removal process—about
how you will cultivate next to the row. You may, over time,
increase your weed pressure.
Please keep me posted if you try it out. The more we all
stretch our creativity and share our results, the more we'll
all improve our operations.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail
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