A no-till system is probably “somewhat less expensive” than conventional tillage because the process requires fewer trips across the field, Moore says.
Costs typically are less than conventional plasticulture tillage because you’re not committed to full tillage, which requires several more operations, such as preparing beds and layering plastic, Meyers says.
There’s also the expense of the plastic and drip tape.
However, Meyers suggests using drip tape irrigation, even with strip- or no-till production.
“Beyond that, it’s just the cost of the cover crop and the no-till or strip till machine,” he says.
It’s been proven that reduced-till systems work, Johnson says. “The next step is to increase adoption where it makes sense.”
Growers must ask whether the system is appropriate for their farms, and many times the answer is yes, he says—especially in hilly areas and regions where erosion is a problem.
“You have to have equivalent yields to justify adopting them,” Johnson says. Until some major growers adopt the conservation-tillage practices with tomatoes and spread the word about how effective they are, growers likely will stick with the tried and true plastic mulch system, he says.
Cultivation can replace herbicide strips in orchards
Strip spraying apple orchards may do a good job controlling weeds, but it also can increase chemical costs, soil erosion and nutrient loss, and reduce beneficial insect habitat, says Matthew Grieshop, assistant professor at Michigan State University’s entomology department in East Lansing.
But Grieshop and his research team have learned strip cultivation can help you achieve about the same level of weed control at a lower cost while benefiting the soil.
Grieshop’s studies, based on work conducted at Cornell University, show that strip tillage in apple orchards can reduce ground cover—or weeds—compared with no treatment and provide results that are at least equal to herbicide strips.
The studies also indicate that strip cultivation does not reduce organic matter in the soil, which could lead to nutrient leaching.
In many cases, cultivation resulted in increased levels of ammonium nitrate during July, when trees typically size their fruit, Grieshop says.
Predatory mites also were more abundant in cultivated rows compared with non-cultivated rows.
The studies were conducted in 2010 and 2011 and will be expanded this year and next, thanks to a federal grant, Grieshop says.