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Strip Tillage and High-Efficiency Irrigation Applied to a Sugarbeet–Barley Rotation

William B. Stevens, Robert G. Evans, William M. Iversen, Jalal D. Jabro, Upendra M. Sainju, Brett L. Allen
Agronomy journal 2015 v.107 no.4 pp. 1250-1258
Beta vulgaris, Hordeum vulgare, barley, conventional tillage, cost effectiveness, crop rotation, fertilizer application, fertilizers, grain yield, malting barley, soil, sprinkler irrigation, strip tillage, sugar beet, Montana
Strip tillage (ST) and high-efficiency overhead irrigation methods reduce fuel and water inputs compared to conventional practices, but have not been extensively evaluated in sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris L.)–malt barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cropping systems. A field study comparing conventional tillage (CT) and ST systems and two sprinkler irrigation methods (mid-elevation spray application, MESA; low-energy precision application, LEPA) was conducted near Sidney, MT, from 2004 to 2008. Strip tillage was performed (for sugarbeet only) using a single operation that left alternating 30-cm wide strips of tilled and untilled soil while fertilizer was simultaneously banded 10 cm below the seed row. Conventional tillage for sugarbeet consisted of six separate tillage operations following a broadcast application of fertilizer. Tillage preceding malt barley consisted of one pass each with a disk and a field cultivator following a broadcast application of fertilizer. Sugarbeet grown with ST yielded as well as when grown with CT. Irrigation method did not affect sugarbeet yield. Malt barley yield was not affected by irrigation method but was 5.4% lower following ST sugarbeet than when following CT sugarbeet. Tillage and fertilizer application costs for the sugarbeet phase of the 2-yr rotation were estimated to be approximately $141 ha–¹ less with ST than with CT representing reductions of 66% for the sugarbeet phase alone and 47% for the 2-yr cropping system. It was concluded that both ST and LEPA are applicable to irrigated sugarbeet–malt barley cropping systems and may provide substantial cost savings compared to conventional practices.