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Research Summary: Impacts of Reduced Tillage and Rotational Diversity

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Veum, K. S., Zuber, S. M., Ransom, C., Myers, R. L., Kitchen, N. R., & Anderson, S. H. (2022).

Reduced tillage and rotational diversity improve soil health in Missouri. Agronomy

Journal, 114, 3027–3039. 

In the paper entitled “Reduced tillage and rotational diversity improve soil health in Missouri”, Veum et al. evaluated how tillage and crop rotation affected soil health indictors at working farms across the state of Missouri. Over 5000 sites were implemented across diverse soils, tillage regimes, and crop rotation practices. Tillage practices were categorized into no-till, reduced tillage, and intensive tillage. Crop rotation was categorized into monoculture, two-crops, and three or more crops in the rotation. Soil organic carbon, permanganate oxidizable carbon, and aggregate stability were measured at each site.

The authors reported that all soil health indicators were greater in no till sites, followed by reduced tillage, and then intensive tillage sites. Crop rotational diversity had a similar effect on soil health indicators, as three or more crops in the rotation resulted in greater soil health indicator values compared to monoculture and two crop sites. While this study was conducted in Missouri, inferences can be made on the effect of tillage and crop rotational diversity in Virginia. The data presented in this study clearly shows that reduction in tillage intensity improves soil health at a farm scale. Producers in Virginia that have reduced tillage intensity and increased crop rotational diversity also report an observed increase in soil health, and this study gives data to help support these reports. This paper provides scientific evidence that practices of reduced tillage and increased rotational diversity increase soil health, which should encourage producers to implement or continue utilizing these practices.

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