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. Your thoughts?
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 perennial weeds.
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 sure why).
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 theme:
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
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
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
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