Strip-till Equipment Lease Program: Reducing Soil and Nutrient Runoff
Wood County, OH

Grantee: Toledo Metropolitan Area of Governments
Basin Program Funds: $15,000
Non-federal Funds: $5,440
Project Duration: 05/1997 - 06/1999
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Due to factors such as soil composition, farmers in Wood County, Ohio are experiencing significantly lower corn yields per acre when practicing no-till over wheat stubble than farmers who move back to conventional tillage, 89 bushels compared to 96 bushels respectively. Many farmers are moving back toward conventional tillage because of the substantial difference in yield. For instance between 1995 and 1996 one northwest Ohio county lost 12,964 acres of no-till corn. This reduces the nutrient and soil erosion control benefits proportionately.

Background
Wood County, Ohio is the highest wheat producing county in the state. When planting corn into wheat stubble farmers experienced a substantial reduction in yield because Wood County's clay soils stay wetter and colder into the spring when farmed by no-till methods than by conventional tillage. The county is also an important component of the Maumee Remedial Action Plan (RAP) which had targeted sediment and nutrient loading reduction as important components of the plan. Wood County has the highest targeted reduction goal for phosphorous with the lowest amount of highly erodible land, very few acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and only 2 percent of total cropland in hay. Crop residue management, therefore, is the only reasonable means to achieve phosphorus reduction goal which means increasing the acreage under conservation tillage, not reducing it. In addition, tillage destroys soil structure improvements provided by conservation tillage, including microbial activity in organic matter.

This loss can be addressed by introducing zone or strip-tilling which places nutrients, such as phosphorus and potassium, in tilled bands 5-8 inches deep in the fall. Through this process nutrients are not exposed to wind and water erosion and they are concentrated into a smaller area for an overall reduction in amount used by 33 percent. At the same time a mound in which seed will be planted is prepared. In the spring the mound will be 5-10 (F) warmer than untouched soil which is significant since corn will not grow below 52 (F), while pathogens thrive at temperatures between 40 (F) and 52 (F).

Activities
The project team purchased a 12-row DMI Precision Air caddy, tool bar and air unit with the grant money early in the summer of 1997. A tractor was also leased through a complimentary funding source. This equipment was used on thirteen different fields to determine effectiveness.

The equipment was on display at the Wood County Fair in August, 1997. Everyone at the fair was invited to view the equipment in action at the Strip Tillage Demonstration on the evening of August 7, 1997 near Bowling Green, Ohio. Invitations were also mailed to over nine hundred people who have an interest in the program and a press release went out to all area media.

Ninety people attended the demonstration, which also included an update on local 1997 conservation tillage (con-til) plots, an explanation of new equipment from a sales representative, and a presentation from an agricultural specialist on the benefits of tracked equipment. The Wood County Con-Til Club provided a free dinner. The demonstration was deemed successful even through the fertilizers were not released.

Landowners were charged a minimal fee of $4.00 per acre to use the equipment. Altogether, eight landowners have used this equipment, with a total of 850 acres strip tilled in 1997. An interesting addition to this program was the requirement to have each participant provide test data. For comparison, landowners split their field into normal practice and strip till. They signed a contract to provide the Wood County SWCD with their production and yield data for evaluation. The data included field and soils information, direct crop inputs, N-P-K fertilizers, other fertilizers, pesticides, field operations, indirect and total costs.

Significant reduction in no-till corn yields planted into wheat stubble is a major issue in Wood County. The trend to revert back to conventional tillage is an unfortunate result. This strip tillage equipment has now been used by eight farmers to till 850 acres. Available data only covers one planting year but data will continue to be gathered through the 2000 planting year for comparison.

Contact: David Gedeon, (419) 241-9155

 

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