Cotton growers in Arizona know that their profitability and survival depend on maintaining high production while minimizing costs. Tillage operations consume about half of the entire seasonal energy budget before the seed is planted. In addition, tillage operations can contribute significantly to soil compaction and dust emissions, resulting in reduced yield and degradation of the environment.
The purpose of this research was to identify alternative tillage methods for cotton; and to document tillage operational data, energy use, time requirements, operating costs and cotton yields over several seasons.
Reduced tillage systems, tested over several years by The University of Arizona, offer energy savings and reduced dust emissions because they are less intensive than conventional systems. Reduced tillage systems are associated with reduced soil compaction, especially when they restrict wheel traffic to set paths in the field, a system known as controlled traffic farming. Reduced tillage systems also reduce field work time requirements because they require fewer passes over the field.
Materials and Methods
The four alternative tillage systems that were compared to a conventional tillage system at The University of Arizona were:
Table 1 describes the five systems studied and includes the operational processes and implements used for each
Results and Discussion
Table 2 lists the number of operations, energy requirements, time requirements, dust emissions, operating costs and yield for the alternative and conventional tillage systems. These data were collected from 1987-1994 at The University of Arizona Agricultural Centers in Marana and Yuma. All of the alternative tillage systems required less energy than the conventional. Time requirements were also less for all alternative tillage systems. Although dust emissions averaged highest for the Sundance System, there were no statistically significant differences between tillage systems. This is partly due to the high dust emissions of the power mulcher used in all tillage systems; this tended to mask the differences in dust emissions from other implements. Operating costs were lower for all of the alternative tillage systems. Although cotton yields with all of the alternative tillage systems averaged higher than with conventional tillage, these differences were not statistically significant.
Reduced tillage systems offer savings in energy use, work time, and operating costs without reducing yield Alternative tillage systems merit serious consideration by Arizona cotton growers.
This project has been funded by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Fund. Machinery was donated by Arizona Drip Systems and Central Machinery Company. Machinery was loaned by Automotive Industries, Ltd., Bob and Dean Wells of Casa Grande, the LDS Church Farm of Marana, and Tom Clark Farms of Marana.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, James A. Christenson, Director Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Arizona.
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Information provided by:
Wayne E. Coates firstname.lastname@example.org, Research Professor, Arid Lands
Gary W. Thacker
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Arizona
Material written 1996.
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