Northeast Zone Tillage Project

Final Report for FNE09-654

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,897.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Pail Boivin
Vermont Golden Harvest Biofuels
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Project Information


This project was designed to test the feasibility of using zone-till in Champlain Valley clay. Six plots were tilled and planted using either conventional tillage, conservation tillage, or zone-till. On the zone-tillage plots only a ten-inch wide strip on thirty-inch centers was tilled. Corn was planted over the strip using a GPS auto-steer. There were 50% savings in time and a 25% savings in fuel with strip tillage over the conventional and conservation systems. Zone-tilled resulted in better root development, a significant reduction in compaction, and better water infiltration into the soil. Yields were lower in the zone-till plots than in the conventional plot due to poor seed placement, lack of sufficient soil over the seed, and seed trench sidewall compaction.

See full report as attachment below.

Project Objectives:

We will have three test fields that differ in management and each being approximately twenty acres in size. The test sites willbe split into two plots, one plot serving as a control (standard conventional tillage) and the other plot as the strip tilled treatment. The strip tilled treatment will be implemented using a new Univerferth Zone Builder which is built to create a deep tilled loosened seed bed. It is a subsoiler and strip tillage implement in one machine. The following are the four phases of the system:

1. In the front it has discs that cut the sod or residue.

2. The 22 inch deep rippers subsoil and break up the hard pan.

3. The 2 fluted coulters, set 10 inches apart, work to crown and till the soil into a 10 inch strip.

4. Rolling baskets, with aggressive bars, level, loosen and break up any lumps.

The guidance system in conjunction with the Zone Builder improves the efficiency of crop production by steering the tractor and implement then recording the data during tillage for use when planting so as to plant in the tilled strops with an accuracy of within 1 to 2 inches by means of GPS as well as its own beacon set within a one half milke radius of the field. All field data including soil type from tillage to planting and even during harvest with the right combine which we don't have at this time.

The management at the various tests sites is as follows:

Test site 1: We intend to compare yields of corn grown in a conventionally tilled sod with strip tillage in the same field. Sod will be killed with a glyphosate application (1 qt/acre) applied one week prior to conventional tillage or strip tillage treatments.

Test site 2: This next comparison will be to compare yields of corn grown on former soybean ground usin our regular practice of reduced tillage compared with strip tillage. Our regular practice of minimum tillage includes spring harrow (2 or 3 times), field cultivate or pulvimulch as needed and plant.

Test site 3: The next comparison will evaluate corn yields on former soybean ground that was fall subsoiled. The field will be split and the treatments will be our regular practice of minimum tillage compared to strip tillage.

All test sites will receive starter fertilizer (163 lbs. per acre of 28.5 - 26 - 0), N sidedress (100 lbs N per acre), and rootworm control. Glyphosate resistant hybrid corn will be planted at 28,000 plants to the acre. Harvest will be done with our own gleaner L3 combine in the fall for grain or forage chopper for silage. The harvest type will be determined by the weather conditions.


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  • Dr. Heather Darby


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.