Reducing Tillage Saves MoistureTue, 11 Jan 2011 17:49:06 CST
Soil scientists at the Agricultural Research Service’s Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron, Colorado, say storing just one inch of water in an acre of soil is worth 25 to 30 dollars per acre. At the same time they have calculated that four to six passes with various tillage equipment to kill weeds over 14 months of leaving land idle or fallow results in a loss of 3 acre-inches of water to evaporation. Those six passes also cost 24 to 48 dollars an acre in fuel and labor costs. Add that to the cost of water lost, and you have 99 to 138 dollars an acre that never makes it into the farmers' pockets.
The scientists have shown that farmers in the Central Plains, who traditionally grow wheat only every other year, can prevent much of that lost moisture and store more precipitation just by eliminating tillage. And by combining no-till with intensive crop rotation management, farmers can capture even more of the precious 14 to 18 inches of rain or snowmelt that may occur each year in various parts of the Central Plains.
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