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No-till improves soil stability in great plains

01/12/2011 @ 2:37pm

Astudy of various tillage practices over 19 years across the central Great Plains shows that no-till makes soil much more stable than plowed soil.

The study was conducted at four sites by ARS and university researchers. The four sites were at Akron, Colorado; Hays and Tribune, Kansas; and Sidney, Nebraska.

No-till stores more soil carbon, which helps bind or glue soil particles together, making the first inch of topsoil two to seven times less vulnerable to the destructive force of raindrops than plowed soil.

The structure of these aggregates in the first inch of topsoil is the first line of defense against soil erosion by water or wind. Understanding the resistance of these aggregates to the erosive forces of wind and rain is critical to evaluating soil erodibility.

This is especially important in semiarid regions such as the Great Plains, where low precipitation, high evaporation, and yield variability can interact with intensive tillage to alter aggregate properties and soil organic matter content.

Tillage makes soil less resistant to being broken apart by raindrops because the clumping is disrupted and soil organic matter is lost through oxidation when soil particles are exposed to air.  

Learn More

ARS Information Staff

5601 Sunnyside Avenue

Beltsville, MD 20705-5128

301/504-1638 | www.ars.usda.gov/is

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