Chapter 17

Soil Management for Field Crops

(book excerpts)

Filed crops account for more than 75 percent of all planted acres of cropland across the United States. The name “field crops” refers specifically to the way these crops are planted—in densely-seeded, usually machine-laid rows across an entire field. Most field crops are “annual” food and fiber plants that are harvested every year. Annual, in this case, means that these plants have a fairly short life cycle—usually, less than or equal to one year. The fields need to be replanted every year in order to remain productive, and therefore a full row crop “growing season” consists of all activities related to planting, cultivating, and harvesting the crops as well as re-incorporating the plant residue after harvest back into the soil. There are many examples of field crops in the United States, but the most significant ones include corn, cotton, rice, sorghum, barley, wheat, oats, rye, triticale, flax, mustard, sunflower, peanuts, potatoes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, alfalfa, and hay. Beneficial field-crop soil management practices are those designed to maintain the quality and long-term productivity of the soil and reduce potential environmental damages from crop production. Some of these practices include reduced tillage and crop residue management, cover cropping, crop rotations, interseeding, contour farming, and strip cropping. The extent to which particular soil management practices are adopted depends on site specific soil and climate conditions, as well as on technical and economic feasibility and farmers’ attitudes toward the practices.

Topics Within This Chapter:

  • Soil Tilth and Management
  • Soil Friability
  • Guidelines for Managing Soil TiIth
  • Conventional Tillage
  • Primary Tillage
  • Secondary Tillage
  • Conventional Tillage Practices
  • Timing of Tillage
  • Limitations of Conventional Tillage
  • Conventional Tillage Implements
  • Subsoiler
  • Moldboard Plow
  • Chisel Plow
  • Disk Plow
  • Disk Harrow
  • Field Cultivator
  • Spike and Spring-Toothed Harrows
  • Rotary Harrow
  • Roller Harrow
  • Packers
  • Conservation Tillage Systems
  • No-Till
  • Strip-Till
  • Ridge-Till
  • Mulch-Till
  • Disadvantages of Conservation Tillage
  • Strip-Till
  • Benefits and Disadvantages of Strip-Till
  • Timing of Strip-Till
  • Placement of Seed
  • Deep Zone-Tillage
  • Conservation Tillage Effects on Soil Properties
  • Effects of Tillage on Physical Properties
  • Soil Temperature
  • Soil Moisture
  • Reduced Soil Erosion
  • Effects of Tillage on Chemical Properties
  • Nutrient Availability
  • Soil pH
  • Soil Organic Matter and Carbon Sequestration
  • Effects of Tillage on Biological Properties
  • Crop Residue Management and Conservation Tillage
  • Residue Management Practices
  • Conservation Tillage Implements
  • Row Cleaners
  • Coulters
  • Crop Residue
  • Types of Coulters
  • Disk Openers
  • Gauge Wheels
  • Seed Metering Devices
  • Drills
  • Planters
  • Seed Tubes and Guards
  • Press Wheels
  • Drag Chains
  • Crop Rotations
  • Crop Rotation Effect on Soil Properties
  • Crop Rotations and Water Use
  • Regional Rotations
  • Crop Rotation Systems
  • Corn-Soybean Rotation
  • Corn/Soybean/Wheat Rotation
  • Corn/ Soybean/ Winter Wheat/Red Clover Rotation
  • Corn-Hay Rotation
  • Corn-Alfalfa Rotation
  • General Principles for Crop Rotation
  • Cover Crops for Sustainable Crop Rotations
  • Cover Crop Selection for Field Crops
  • Grasses
  • Legumes
  • Brassicas
  • Cover Crop C:N Ratio Considerations
  • Low C:N Ratio
  • Medium C:N Ratio
  • High C:N Ratio
  • Mixing Cover Crop Functional Groups
  • Management Options for Reducing Nitrogen Deficiencies
  • Cover Crops for Corn-Soybean Rotation
  • Corn-Soybean Rotation with Rye
  • Cover Crops for Cotton Rotation
  • Cover Crops for Dryland Rotations
  • Cover Crops in Conservation Tillage Systems
  • Wheat-Fallow Rotation
  • Interseeding with Cover Crops
  • Interseeding Time
  • Cover Crops for Interseeding
  • Interseeding Corn with Cover Crops
  • Interseeding Winter Wheat with Red Clover
  • Strip Cropping
  • Types of Strip Cropping
  • Contour Strip Cropping
  • Field Strip Cropping
  • Buffer Strip Cropping
  • Wind Strip Cropping