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Water Quality Impacts of Tillage Practices Used in Burley Tobacco Production

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Paper number  032197,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.15395)
Authors:   M. K. Laird, D. H. Vaughan, B. L. Benham, S. Anderson, B. Barham, R. Jacobs, C. O’Connor, C. A. Nelson, B. B. Ross
Keywords:   Conservation tillage, strip tillage, no-till, rainfall simulator, edge-of-field losses, lysimeter, burley tobacco, chlorpyrifos, flumetralin

The water quality benefits of reduced tillage practices have been compared extensively for corn and soybean production systems. Less research has been completed, however, that examines water quality benefits of reduced tillage in tobacco production systems. Tobacco is historically an intensively tilled crop. Intensive tillage methods leave the soil exposed and can accelerate erosion, as well as the loss of nutrients and pesticides during runoff events. This study measured sediment, nutrient and pesticide edge-of-field and deep percolation losses from three tillage treatments on a burley tobacco production system. The three tillage treatments (conventional tillage, strip tillage, and no-till) were compared using a randomized complete block design with three replications. Runoff events were generated using a rainfall simulator. Water quality samples were analyzed for NH3, NO3, TKN, PO4, TP, TSS, Dursban and Prime Plus. The results show that no-till had greater reductions of suspended sediment and all nutrients, except NH3, in runoff than strip tillage. The no-till treatment yielded lower concentrations for every constituent than conventional tillage lost to deep percolation. Strip tillage also resulted in lower NO3 -, NH3, TKN, and TP soil water concentrations than conventional tillage. These rainfall events were not significant in the edge-offield loss of Dursban and Prime Plus. The results show that no-till was superior in reducing nutrients, sediment and pesticides in agricultural runoff and percolated water.

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