Heavy Residue Management System
Wood Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds:
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.
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.
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).
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