Vertical Movement of Soil

In preparing the seedbed for planting using tillage, the soil is disturbed and mixed vertically (in place) to loosen the soil and break up large clumps in order to optimize soil-to-seed contact. This disturbance affects the porosity and structure of the soil and, therefore, affects processes such as the movement of air, water, and heat (drying and warming), and root penetration and growth. During tillage, some soil can be thrown upward more than twice the depth of tillage. Immediately after tillage, the depth of the disturbed soil is normally 20-30% greater than its depth before tillage. Although the loosening that tillage causes can persist for weeks to months, eventually the soil reconsolidates (Figure 1). In general,

Table 1 Characteristics of selected tillage operations

Tillage

Tillage

Soil area

Residue

Tillage

Tillage

depth

speed

disturbed

burial

Tillage

implement

operation

Tillage tools

(cm)

(km h -1)

(%)

ratioa

intensity

Moldboard

Primary tillage

40.6 cm spacing

25.4

8.G

100

G.99

Very high

plow

Chisel plow

Primary tillage

15.2 cm sweeps, 30.5 cm spacing

17.8

9.6

100

G.45

Very high

Offset disk

Primary tillage

61.0 cm disks, 27.9 cm spacing

15.2

8.G

100

G.87

Very high

Tandem

Secondary

45.7 cm disks, 19.1 cm spacing

10.1

8.G

100

G.64

High

disk

tillage

Field

Secondary

20cm sweeps, 20 cm spacing

7.6

9.6

100

G.35

Moderate

cultivator

tillage

Seed drill

Seeding

Double disk openers

3.8

8.G

65

G.17

Very low

Seed drill

Seeding

Double disk openers, coulters,

7.6

8.G

90

G.36

Low

(no till)

row cleaners

Fertilizer

Fertilization

Anhydrous knives

10.2

8.G

20

G.G8

Very low

injector

Furrow

In-season

Shovels

10.2

6.4

35

G.14

Very low

dyker

water conservation

Root crop

Harvesting

Blades

17.8

4.8

100

G.8G

Very high

Harvester

Heavy

Residue

Straight tines

2.5

9.6

100

G.3

Very low

harrow

management

aData from the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation software, Version 2.0.

aData from the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation software, Version 2.0.

the intent of tillage during seedbed preparation is to cause the vertical movement of soil, not horizontal; however, soil is moved both vertically and horizontally by all forms of tillage.

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