HortScience 42:1690-1694. 2007.

Overcoming compaction limitations on cabbage growth and yield in the transition to reduced tillage

Mochizuki, M.J., A. Rangarajan, R.R. Bellinder, T. Björkman, H. M. van Es.

Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

ABSTRACT   Vegetable producers are increasingly interested in adopting conservation
tillage practices to maintain or enhance productivity and soil health, but reducing tillage
may reduce yields in cool climates. Strategies to transition from full-width tillage to zone
tillage systems for cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. Group capitata) were tested with the
goals of overcoming soil temperature and compaction limitations and producing crop
yield and quality equivalent to conventionally tilled. Designed to achieve differential soil
temperature and compaction levels, the treatments were factorial combinations of two
widths of zone tillage (15 and 30 cm) and two depths of zone tillage (10 and 30 cm) plus a
conventional rototilled treatment (full width and 20-cm depth) as a control. To assess
the effect of treatments in the transitional year to reduced tillage, the experiment was
conducted in 2003 and 2004 at different fields that were previously conventionally tilled.
Increasing tillage width from 15 cm to 30 cm increased soil temperature by 1.8C in both
years but had a limited effect on cabbage growth and no effect on yield. Tillage width and
soil temperature may have greater impact on an earlier planting. By contrast, increasing
tillage depth from 10 cm to 30 cm reduced soil penetrometer resistance by up to 1 MPa,
increased plant growth by 28%, and increased yield by 22%. Growth and yield in 30-cm
depth treatments were similar to conventional tillage, indicating the undisturbed,
between-row areas in zone tillage treatments did not restrict growth. Zone tillage did
not affect cabbage maturity or quality. Tillage depth was more important to the success
of this system than tillage width; vertical tillage to 30-cm depth left between 60% and
80% of the soil surface area undisturbed and can be an effective transition to con-
servation tillage for transplanted cabbage.

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