The adoption of conservation tillage systems and practices has made conservation tillage the conventional tillage practice in use today in the United States. While much has been published on conservation tillage systems and practices over the past few decades, dedicated production manuals are still needed that provide updated information about practices and producers’ experiences. The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive guide about conservation tillage systems for farms in the southeastern United States, providing information on the core components of conservation tillage systems as well as addressing regional considerations. The geographic coverage of the book examines these systems from southern Virginia to the panhandle of Florida and from the Atlantic Coast to eastern Mississippi (excluding the Mississippi Delta). This publication will build on existing books by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program on conservation in crop production systems, including Building Soils for Better Crops and Managing Cover Crops Profitably.
This book provides an overview of conservation tillage systems, detailed chapters examining the different core components of conservation tillage systems, and specific recommendations for adopting and operating conservation tillage systems for crop production in different regions of the southeastern United States. The book takes an agricultural systems approach to understanding conservation tillage systems, recognizing that the different components of conservation tillage systems are interrelated. This systems approach is particularly evident in Section 3 of the book, which examines specific regional considerations. Chapters 1–3 (Section 1) provide an overview of what a conservation tillage system entails, the benefits and future of conservation tillage systems and the importance of conservation tillage systems for building healthy soils. Chapters 4–16 (Section 2) provide detailed information about the different core components of conservation tillage systems, including cover crop management, tillage practices, crop rotations, integration of livestock, planting practices, crop nutrient management, pest management and water management. A detailed chapter on assessing the economics of conservation tillage systems and cover crops is provided, as well as a chapter on bioenergy and conservation tillage systems. Finally, chapters 17–20 (Section 3) examine regional management considerations for different major land resource areas as defined by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service across the southeastern United States. At the end of the book a glossary of terms is provided.
The book was written with both producers and agricultural students in mind. While chapters provide much information from research studies and on the details of practices, the book was oriented and edited extensively so that it is accessible to farmers and agricultural students. In addition, the book should provide useful information for beginners, individuals interested in exploring the topic and the general public. The content in the book provides an overview of conservation tillage systems (Section 1), and the chapters on the core components provide much more detailed information about the different aspects of conservation tillage systems. While these chapters specifically relate to production systems in the southeastern United States, they include general information that is applicable to other regions of the country.
The book was the culmination of the hard work of 50 authors who have extensive experience with different aspects of conservation tillage systems in the southeastern United States. In addition, all chapters in the book went through a double-blind peer review, as well as detailed technical and editorial editing. My thanks and appreciation go out for all the hard work, effort and contributions made by the authors, peer reviewers and co-editors bringing this book to publication. The effort would not have been possible without all of their support. In addition, thanks needs to be given to financial support from multiple sources, including SARE, Cotton Incorporated (project No. 09-613), the Alabama Farmers Federation, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the University of Georgia and the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Society.
Jason S. Bergtold