Conservation tillage systems add residue to the soil profile and over time the decaying roots add to the available channels for water to infiltrate deeper into the soil profile. Over time, the decaying biomass adds organic matter to the soil profile that causes it to better absorb and translocate water. Conservation tillage has benefits for farmers with and without irrigation. Two farmers benefiting from conservation tillage are Lamar Black and Clayton Anderson, both of whom are in east central Georgia.
Black has been using conservation tillage since 1993 and has irrigation. He says that with conservation tillage, he is able to apply less water, which allows him to supply enough water for all crops including corn. Furthermore, with the build-up of organic matter, he can apply more water per application without runoff, thereby reducing wear on the pivot.
Anderson has been using conservation tillage since 2000 and farms mostly dryland crops. Even without supplemental irrigation, he says that using conservation tillage enhances the water-holding capacity of his soils. This benefits the crops during dry periods in the summer. “During periods of extreme heat and continuous sunshine, the residue keeps soil temperature down and slows the evaporation process,” says Anderson. “If we are lucky enough to get a rain or quick downpour, it stays in the field and is quickly absorbed by the soil,” he adds.
Through the use of a conservation tillage system, farmers with irrigation as well as those without irrigation benefit from the improved ability of the soil to capture, translocate and store water resources.