12-19-17 CSU SEA Extension: “Tillage, Sometimes Less Is More”

CSU SEA Extension: “Tillage, Sometimes Less Is More”

Growing up on a flood irrigated farm under the Fort Lyon Canal, nothing seemed more pleasing to the eye than a freshly tilled field with clean straight furrows ready for irrigation.   However, over the past 20 years soil scientist and agronomist have been touting the benefits of crop residue and reduced tilling.  Research has overwhelmingly confirmed that reduced tillage leads to improved soil health and water infiltration.   Reduced and minimal tillage strategies are now the rule rather the exception on the majority of the dryland acres in Eastern Colorado.   Converting flood irrigated fields to center pivot irrigation has allowed some irrigated farmers to reduce tillage on the converted acres as well, but not all farms and fields are a good fit for a center pivot.  Although implementing reduced tillage strategies on land with furrow flood irrigation is challenging it is not impossible.  

In August of 2015 Colorado State University’s Erik Wardle, Troy Bauder and Calvin Pearson released Technical Report TR15-10. “Guidelines for Using Conservation Tillage Under Furrow Irrigation”.    The full report can be found online at http://www.conservationtillage.colostate.edu/TR15-10_Conservation-Tillage-Furrow-Irrigation_Web.pdf .  The report offers guidance in managing surface crop residue, soil nutrients and fertilization, weed, insect and diseases, crop rotations and economics considerations.

If you are interested in implementing reduced tillage into your farming operation winter is the perfect time to plan out strategies that can be implemented this spring.  If you would like help developing reduced tillage and crop rotation plans for your operation contact CSU Southeast Area Extension Agronomist Kelly Roesch at 719-336-7734 or email at kelly.roesch@colostate.edu  A link to TR15-10 and other Agronomy related information can also be found on the CSU Southeast Area Agronomy Facebook page.

For more information, contact your local Extension Office:  Baca County 719-523-6971, Bent County 719-456-0764, Cheyenne County 719-767-5716, Crowley County 719-267-5243, Kiowa County 719-438-5321, Otero County 719-254-7608, Prowers County 719-336-7734.  Or find us on the web at:  http://sea.extension.colostate.edu/.  CSU Extension offers up-to-date, unbiased, research-based information to families in Southeast Colorado.  CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

Submitted to BARN Media by: 

Kelly Roesch

Area Extension Agent

Agronomy/Cropping Systems

Phone: (719) 336-7734