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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Soil properties change in no-till tomato production


High production costs and perceived declines in soil quality due to agricultural intensification have led to recent interest in conservation tillage production practices. We conducted field experiments in Five Points in 1997 and 1998 to evaluate the effectiveness of maintaining a cover crop mulch on the soil surface in a no-till system compared to a standard tillage system for conserving soil moisture and improving water infiltration and other soil physical properties in a furrow-irrigated tomato field. Soil water content did not differ among treatments in 1997, but was higher under no-till cover crop mulches than conventionally tilled plots during the 1998 growing season. Soil carbon was increased more than 8% and more earthworms were found under no-till mulches relative to the conventionally tilled plots in the second year of the study. Soil compaction was lower in no-till treatments, especially at the 1-to-2-foot depth. In this study, furrows were swept clean and therefore furrow irrigation did not constitute a limitation to this no-till system.

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