Strategic tillage to reduce soil structural degradation : SRDC final project report BSS143
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The project was undertaken to assess the benefits of zonal tillage, where only the crop row is cultivated and the compacted inter-row is left as a permanent traffic zone.Focus groups of growers were convened to discuss industry attitude and reasons for non-adoption of reduced tillage planting. It was largely agreed that compared to 10-15 years ago that the industry had moved to reduced tillage practices. The question the groups focused on was ?why was it necessary to cultivate the whole block, why not just cultivate the old row?. Opinion was expressed that land preparation was undertaken the way it was, generally because that is how it had always been done. Other reasons recorded were, difficult soil types relating to soil moisture at the time of tillage, run-off and erosion, cultivation was one factor that could be controlled, risk of crop failure (poor emergence, but this could also be due to poor planting material), soil-borne diseases and insect pests and the technique had not been thought about before. Benefits that were perceived included soil structure preservation, saving of time and energy. During the discussions it was learnt that innovative growers were practising a version of strategic tillage, unknown to neighbouring growers.Interest in the concept of strategic tillage was generated through these groups, to the extent that the strategy is being trialled by several growers.