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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 16 No. 2, p. 190-194

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Mulch Tillage: Some Effects on Plant and Soil Properties1

  1. J. E. Moody,
  2. J. H. Lillard and
  3. T. W. Edminster2



The effects of a “double-cut plow” method of mulch tillage on fertility, as measured by soil nitrate-N, soluble nutrients in leaf, grain yields, and nutrient content of the corn plant, and on physical properties of the soil were investigated at Blacksburg, Va. The standard 3-year rotation of corn, small grain, and clover-grass with mulch tillage practice during the corn year was compared with a similar rotation using conventional clean tillage practice.

The percentage of N in the corn plant was lower where mulch tillage was used. The differences were significant (5% level) for high yield seasons. Percentage P in the plant was not affected by tillage method. Differences in K content of corn plant between tillage method, although usually large, were inconsistent. In general, soil nitrate-N and soluble N-P-K in leaf tissue were lower during the early part of the growing season under mulch tillage.

Significant reduction in yields (19 bu./A.) were obtained from mulch in 1948. This was apparently due to a similar reduction in stand. In 1949 and 1950, with planter modifications which pushed the mulch from the row, comparable yields and stands were obtained. Three-year average yields were: mulch 73 bu./A., turn plow 81 bu./A.

The 0–3 inch layer of soil under mulch showed higher aggregation, air space, percent organic matter, and percent total nitrogen than did conventional tillage.

There are a number of factors which may affect the availability of nutrients where this tillage method is used. It is believed that the lower N status under mulch was due chiefly to changes in the soil microflora brought about by this tillage.

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