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Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

1712 Claflin Rd.

2004 Throckmorton PSC

Manhatan, KS 66506

785-532-6101

agronomy@ksu.edu

Extension Agronomy

Conventional tillage: Water Quality Best Management Practices

(Note: The following article is a slightly edited excerpt from Water Quality Best Management Practices, Effectiveness, and Cost for Reducing Contaminant Losses from Cropland K-State Research and Extension publication MF-2572, August 2015, by Peter Tomlinson, Environmental Quality Specialist, Agronomy; John Leatherman, Agricultural Economist; Josh Roe, Economist, Kansas Department of Agriculture; Nathan Nelson, Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management, Agronomy; Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist, Agronomy; Dan Devlin, Director, Kansas Center for Agriculture Resources and the Environment; Aleksey Sheshukov, Environmental Engineer, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Phil Barnes, Environmental Engineer, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Joel DeRouchey, Environmental Management and Livestock Nutrition Specialist, Animal Science and Industry; and Charles Rice, Soil Microbiologist, Agronomy. -- Steve Watson, Agronomy eUpdate Editor)

 

K-State Research and Extension faculty have conducted field, laboratory, and computer modeling studies on the effect of crop management practices on the runoff of pesticides, nutrients, and sediments/suspended solids from conventional tillage crop fields. This article lists recommended best management practices (BMP) for conventional tillage cropping systems. This publication also shows the effectiveness of a BMP in reducing edge of field surface runoff of a contaminant, and an estimated cost of implementing BMPs.

Figure 2. Soil washing in conventional tillage field. Photo by Peter Tomlinson, K-State Research and Extension.

 

The percent reduction in surface runoff by adopting a listed BMP is the effectiveness obtained from adoption of a single new BMP. It is not appropriate to consider the effectiveness of the adoption of several BMPs to be additive.

A reported BMP cost is the expected loss in producer profitability associated with adoption. Alternatively, it can be treated as the payment-to-producer required to encourage adoption. BMP costs and effectiveness figures are based on research, farm data, and professional estimates.

The table below contains the cost and effectiveness of reducing the edge of field surface runoff of contaminants from the adoption of various BMPs under conventional tillage systems.

The data on reduction of surface runoff by adopting a BMP are relative to a corn and grain sorghum field where atrazine herbicide is applied preemergence (herbicide broadcast, surface applied following crop planting, but before crop emergence), phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer broadcast applied before planting the crop and unincorporated, conventional tillage (less than 30 percent residue cover following planting), with greater than 1 percent slope on upland clay or clay loam soils. For wheat and other crops, the comparison benchmark is phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer broadcast applied, unincorporated, conventional tillage, with greater than 1 percent slope on upland clay or clay loam soils.

 

 

 

Best Management Practice for Conventional Tillage

Cost/Acre

Atrazine

Soluble Phosphorus

Total Phosphorus

Nitrogen

Suspended Solids

 

($)

(percent reduction in surface runoff by adopting BMP)

Preplant incorporate into the top 2 inches of soil before the first runoff

9.92

70

60

20

50

0

Use postemergence herbicide applications

5.48

50

0

0

0

0

Use alternative herbicides to atrazine

11.69

100

0

0

0

0

Use in-season cultivation to minimize herbicide use

17.10

30

0

0

0

0

Band herbicides, nitrogen, and phosphorus on the soil surface before or at planting; typically 30 percent of surface area, weeds between rows controlled with cultivation

7.95

50

20

20

25

0

Subsurface apply phosphorus or nitrogen fertilizer

13.25

0

60

30

60

0

Apply atrazine in fall for next year’s row crop

5.48

50

0

0

0

0

Apply herbicide in early spring, before May 1

5.48

50

0

0

0

0

Use split applications of herbicide, e.g., 1/2 to 2/3 before May 1 and 1/2 to 1/3 at planting

5.48

25

0

0

0

0

Use reduced soil-applied herbicide application rates followed by a postemergence application

5.48

33

0

0

0

0

Crop rotations

0

30

25

25

25

25

Establish vegetative buffer strips

a/

25

25

50

35

50

Do not spray/apply herbicides or nutrients within 100 feet of streams or near where runoff enters a stream

b/

20

25

25

25

0

Use weed scouting/integrated pest management

5.00

0-50

0

0

0

0

Conservation tillage farming (>30 percent residue cover following planting)

0

20

0

35

15

30

No-till farming

0

0

0

40

25

75

Contour farming (without terraces)

6.80

20

20

30

20

35

Terraces with tile outlets

c/

10

10

30

10

30

Terraces with grass waterways (with contour farming)

d/

30

30

30

30

30

Soil sampling and testing

1.00

0

0-25

0-25

0-25

0

Sound fertilizer recommendations

0

0

0-25

0-25

0-25

0

Cover crops (fall, winter, spring)

e/

0

40

50

25

40

a/ Establishment cost of $150 per acre plus an annual cost equal to the average per acre land rental rate for the acreage within the buffer strip.

b/ Annual cost equal to the average per acre land rental rate for the acreage where herbicides and nutrients are not applied (i.e., acres within 100 feet of streams or before runoff enters a stream).

c/ One time installation cost of $522 per treated acre plus an annual cost of $13.20 acre.

d/ One-time installation cost of $320 per treated acre plus an annual cost of $13.20 per acre plus an annual cost equal to the average per acre land rental rate for the acreage within the grassed waterway.

e/ Cover crop seed mixes range from $10 to 50 per acre, average no-till planting costs of $15.48 per acre, chemical costs of $11.69 per acre, and chemical application costs of $5.48 per acre.

Source for Custom Farm Rates: www.agmanager.info/farmmgt/machinery/Tools/KCD_CustomRates(Feb2014).pdf

 

Peter Tomlinson, Environmental Quality Specialist
ptomlin@ksu.edu