Strategic tillage

Published: 1 Jul 2014

Strategic Tillage Fact sheet

Is there room for strategic tillage in a no-till system?

No-till has brought benefits in moisture retention and soil structure, but has also contributed to increased incidence of soil and stubble-borne diseases, herbicide resistant hard-to-kill weeds and stratification of immobile nutrients near the soil surface. Growers are asking the question: How much damage is done to soil by occasional tillage, strategically applied, in an otherwise no-till system?

Key points

  • Conservation farming involves reduced tillage, stubble retention and good rotations. This underpins sustainable grain production systems worldwide.
  • Current advice on soil tillage management contains apparent contradictions. Some flexibility may be required in the application of conservation farming practices.
  • No-till has revolutionised cropping, but has resulted in an increased reliance on herbicides, leading to herbicide-resistant weeds.
  • A lack of tillage can cause nutrient stratification and favour diseases such as crown rot, Rhizoctonia and Pseudomonas.
  • Conventional tillage can suppress plant parasitic nematode populations, lower the number of snails and slugs prior to canola crops, and lower mice numbers in affected fields.
  • From an overall systems perspective, limited and strategically timed tillage could have a tactical role as part of a productive, sustainable system.

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GRDC Project Code DAN00152, ERM00003

Region North, South

Region: North; South