Heavy Residue Management System
Wood County, OH

Grantee: Wood Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $20,000
Non-federal Funds: $27,486
Project Duration: 07/1993 - 06/1995
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Fields that have returned to conventional tillage are losing the soil structure benefits that continuous conservation tillage can provide. It takes several years and many tons of crop residue to increase the organic matter and improve the soil structure and microbial activity. Even with Wood County's flat topography, surface water runoff is dramatically increased when fields are plowed compared to fields that are conservation tilled resulting in higher sediment and phosphorus loads to the Lake Erie Watershed.

Zone-til cart

Background
Wood County ranks first in the state in wheat production, therefore, farmers in Wood County have many acres of wheat stubble to manage. In recent years, the district office has seen rapid growth in conservation tillage especially for soybeans and wheat. Corn however, has been a different story. There is a hesitancy for farmers to use conservation tillage (no-till) when planting corn after wheat due to the heavy clay soils staying wetter and colder than conventionally tilled ground resulting in slow and spotty emergence of corn. This translates into major yield reductions. As a result, conservation tilled corn has been at a virtual stand-still the last couple of years. With the help of Great Lakes Basin Program Funds, the Wood SWCS purchased a zone-till cart. Zone tillage is an alternative method of conservation tillage that allows farmers to till 6 to 8 inch strips in their wheat stubble fields anytime following wheat harvest until winter. This allows the soil to warm up and dry more quickly, creating a better environment for the seed. Corn planted in these strips, the following spring, emerge as if the field was conventionally tilled while maintaining 30% or greater residue cover.

Lake Erie target loads for phosphorus reduction under the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement were at 57% for Wood County. Wood County has the highest reduction goal of all the counties in Ohio and the lowest amount of highly erodible land. Wood County has also very few acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and the amount of acreage in hay production is less than 2% of the cropland in the entire county. Therefore crop residue management is the only road to achieve the next 43% of phosphorus reduction, and the economic benefits of conservation tillage must be feasible at the time.

Activities
Wood SWCD purchased a 6-row Rawson zone-till cart in the summer of 1993. In the fall of 1993 the cart was used by nine farmers on 495 acres and in the spring of 1994 by nine farmers on 240 acres.

Test plots were established at the Wood County Conservation Tillage Research Plot in conjunction with the Wood SWCD, Ohio State University Extension, Otsego FFA, and the Wood County Con-till Club. These test plots compare three different tillage operations; Corn planted into no-till, zone-till, and conventionally prepared test sites. Test plots were harvested late fall with results being published and distributed through the District's newsletter, the 1995 Northern Ohio Crops Day and a Wood County Con-till Club winter meeting.

In August of 1994, the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC) of the Ohio State University started a three year research plot comparing six different corn tillage planting methods. The six different methods were fall chisel, fall disc/harrow, fall deep tillage (para-till), no-till, spring zone-till and fall zone-till. The OARDC used the Wood SWCD's zone-till cart for the spring zone-till.

The Wood County Conservation Tillage Research Plot used the zone-till cart for a wheat residue digestion test plot they established in 1995. The test plots measured the digestion of wheat residue through six different treatments. These treatments were fall zone-till, animal manure, sludge, seed treatment, 28% nitrogen and spring no-till.

Information/education activities continue to inform landowners of the benefits of zone tillage. Zone tillage demonstrations were given at several events including Con-Till Day, and Northwest Ohio Farm Tour. Over 270 farmers from Ohio, Michigan and Canada participated at these events. The Wood SWCD, OSU Extension, Otsega FFA and the Wood County Con-till Club sponsored a twilight meeting a the Wood County Conservation Tillage Research Plot. Seventy farmers viewed plots with nine different corn varieties planted in three different tillage methods of conventional, no-till, and zone-till. Growth populations and root development was analyzed and presented to the farmers. Presentations were made at a Conservation Action Project Farmers Workshop meeting and at a Henry SWCD tillage meeting. These presentations reached over 150 farmers. The zone-till cart was featured on the display board at the Wood County Fair tent and at Ohio Northern Crops Day. Several articles and photos promoting zone tillage were published in various papers and magazines including the Bowling Green Sentinel paper, No-till Farmer (June edition), and Farmland News (April edition).

Zone-till cart in action

Results
In total, 390 acres were zone-tilled using the zone-till cart. In addition, over 350 farmers were reached directly through presentations and demonstrations, and potentially more were reached through newsletter and newspaper publications.

Contact: Bob George, (419) 352-5172

 

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