Cultivation tillage brings benefits but is not for all
CULTIVATION tillage, known under a variety of names, can bring huge benefits, but it must be done properly and does not suit everyone.
That is the firm message from Monsantos Colin Stride of the Soil Management Initiative.
"Ploughing can bring problems and intensive cultivations can lead to soil degradation which can lead to excessive water run-off, soil erosion and pollution." A MAFF survey shows 44% of soils are at risk from water erosion.
Last year, ploughing established 80% of the wheat on UK farms, with minimum tillage accounting for the rest. Several things can be done to minimise ploughing problems, says Mr Stride.
Rotational working is one option, there is no need to invert soil when preparing oilseed rape seed-beds and chisel ploughs can be used to leave trash on the surface to reduce erosion risks.
Coarser seed-beds can be prepared with less cultivation, or reservoir tillage with surface indentations can be used to reduce the risk of water running off with soil.
"There are some dramatic environmental gains with conservation tillage. By incorporating straw into the top 10cm earthworm numbers are increased. They are natural soil conditioners and improve infiltration and sub-surface structure." This increases trafficability and permits more timely operations.
Ploughing releases five times more CO2 from the soil than reduced tillage, and soil carbon levels are 8% better under a no-plough system, he says. *