Tillage Study, Nutrient Data Discussed At Plant Clinic

EASTON — Farmers say manure smells like money, but research about how to get the most benefit from manure application while maintaining good soil and water quality is ongoing.
calendar icon 23 May 2007
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For a look into some of that research, Joshua McGrath, assistant professor of environmental science and technology at the University of Maryland, spoke at this year’s final Mid-Shore Plant Clinic.

McGrath is working on many nutrient management projects including tillage studies and developing a nutrient balance for Maryland. The tillage study is looking at ways to combine tillage and no-till to further reduce runoff from surface applied manure and fertilizer. The study compared strip-till, turbo-till and conventional tillage systems with no-till after poultry litter application. He said Delmarva and the Mid-Atlantic region have been the most successful with no-till planting and it has had great benefits, but not without some consequences.

“When you’re doing repeated applications of broiler litter, what you have is a high accumulation in the soil of phosphorus and it’s right up there and available to be washed off by any kind of precipitation event,” McGrath said.

“So if we can mix some tillage into that no-till system without destroying all the benefits of no-till but get those nutrients off the surface a little bit, I think there will be a lot of benefits, and we saw that in the run-off data,” he said.

After one year of data from plots at the Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown, Md., McGrath said the turbo-till system that tills about 2 to 3 inches into the soil using fluted coulters appeared to be most effective in reducing runoff from the litter and managing field residue.

Source: AmericanFarm
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