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Minimum vs. Conventional Tillage in Commercial Sugarbeet Production

Glenn, D. M., Dotzenko, A. D.
Agronomy journal 1978 v.70 no.2 pp. 341-344
soil resource management, soil resources, soil management
In recent years, minimum tillage practices have been applied to sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris L.) production in northeastern Colorado to reduce soil erosion and fuel demands. The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness of rotary-strip, no-plow minimum tillage to conventional plow-based tillage on commercial sugarbeet fields under center-pivot sprinkler irrigation relative to soil nitrate movement, weed control, stand establishment, soil compaction, field operations, yield and quality. Minimum tillage was compared to conventional plow-based tillage in 16 center-plot-irrigated fields in eastern Colorado. A 0.10-ha study site was located in a representative portion of each field. Soils were aridic Argiustoll members of the fine montmorillinitic mesic family. In the spring and midsummer, stand counts and weed counts were conducted to determine stand establishment and the effects of tillage systems on weed populations. Five-foot deep soil cores were collected in June, July, and November to monitor nitrate movement in each field. After all field operations were completed prior to harvest, water infiltration, soil compaction, soil aggregate distribution, and aggregate stability studies were conducted to determine any differences due to tillage system. Minimum-tilled sites had significantly lower proportions of furrow soil aggregates 6.4 mm and less .in diam but had a higher percentage of aggregates 12.7 to 88.0 mm in diam. Minimum tillage significantly reduced the percentage and stability of row soil aggregates 0.84 to 6.4 mm in diameter. The stability of row and furrow aggregates decreased with increasing size. Nitrate movement was greater and larger concentrations of nitrate were moved to a depth of 75 cm under minimum tillage. The method of tillage had no effect on row and furrow bulk density, water infiltration rate, weed populations, emergence percentage, final stand, yield, quality, or recoverable sucrose. The results demonstrate that minimum tillage produced a sugarbeet crop of comparable tonnage and quality to that of conventional tillage while significantly reducing the number of field operations by 40%.