For the first time, University of California researchers have obtained the same cotton and processsing tomato yields under conservation tillage as they have with conventional tillage.
Yields for the processing tomato crop were 53 tons per acre on the no-till plots and 49 tons per acre on the conventional plots.
For cotton, both practices yielded 3.4 bales per acre, according to a news release.
The long-term project at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points compares a typical Central Valley cotton-tomato rotation grown under conventional and no-till cultivation.
It began in 1999 and is being led by Jeff Mitchell, a UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist.
Going no-till cut production costs by about $135 per acre for the processing tomatoes and about $40 per acre for the cotton, according to calculations by UC agricultural economist Karen Klonsky.
The 2011 processing tomato crop was transplanted April 7 using a no-till transplanter following the 2010 cotton crop.
The cotton crop was direct seeded into former processing tomato plots and plots on which a cover crop had been grown.
Planting that late may be one reason why the processing tomato crop didn't yield as high as expected.
Central Valley cotton growers must plow down their cotton stubble before winter as part of the state's pink bollworm eradication program.
But Mitchell received a waiver that allowed him to shred and root-pull the left-over cotton crop.
2011 also marked the first time that only no-till was used in both crops. In the past, researchers used in-season cultivation for weed control in processing tomato plots.
Mitchell and his team plan to convert the plots to subsurface drip irrigation for the 2012 and subsequent crops.
For more information on conservation tillage, visit UC's conservation tillage website.