Evaluating Strip Tillage and Fertility Placement to Reduce Soil and P Loss

Principal Investigator

Ben Rosser

Research Institution

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

Timeline

April 1, 2018 – December 31, 2021

Objectives

  • Evaluate competitiveness of fall phosphorus (P) and potassium (potash, K) fertilizer placed through strip tiller vs. broadcast and incorporated.
  • Evaluate competitiveness of P and K fertilizer placed with fall strip tillage pass vs. fertilizer placed with spring strip tillage pass.
  • Evaluate importance of planter banded fertilizer in a fall strip tillage fertility system.
  • Evaluate yield performance of strip tillage versus conventional tillage.

Impacts

  • The development of an economically competitive conservation system using strip tillage may lead to reduced losses of phosphorus (P) fertilizer from the field.

Scientific Summary

Run-off from agricultural land has been identified as a contributor of phosphorous (P) loading to Lake Erie and has received considerable public attention for this role. Soil conservation efforts such as no-till have delivered reductions in particulate P loading. However, these efforts have been offset by an increase in dissolved P, which have been partly attributed to the broadcasting of fertilizer on soil surfaces which do not receive incorporation and are susceptible for loss to surface water. Future conservation strategies for long term sustainability will need to address both issues – reduction in erosion (reduces particulate P loss) with simultaneous incorporation of fertilizer into the soil (reduces dissolved P loss). Strip tillage is one system which could potentially address both reduced tillage and sub-surface placement of larger amounts of fertilizer. Strip tillage has been investigated and promoted as a conservation tillage system for nearly 20 years in Ontario and is now seeing considerable momentum and uptake in the farm community. More research is required to evaluate the ability of strip tillage to replace surface applications of P and potassium (potash, K) fertilizer, and further refine management recommendations for current corn hybrids and strip tillage technology for those who are converting to it.

This project will build on previous research investigating response of P and K fertility and placement in strip tillage systems relative to broadcast and conventional tillage systems, but focus on a different geography (Perth, Wellington, Brant and Oxford counties). Four or five trials will be conducted each year to investigate the ability of strip tillage and fertility placement systems to compete competitively with broadcast fertility and conventional tillage systems. Trials will be conducted with co-operators who are currently under conventional tillage systems, and for fertilizer response potential will be placed on locations with low P or K fertility. Treatments will investigate a variety of tillage and fertilizer placements methods to answer the above objectives over three growing seasons.

External Funding Partners

This project was funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.