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SWEEP Report #SUP2

Conservation Tillage Handbook:
Equipment Modifications and Practical Tips for Use

P. Brubacher, J. Sadler Richards, and K. McKague, Ecologistics Ltd, Waterloo, Ont., and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Evaluation Summary(Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

View / Download Digital Handbook - [2946 KB PDF]



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Completed: October, 1989

Key Words:

conservation tillage, equipment modifications, no-till, minimum tillage, mulch tillage, ridge tillage, moldboard plow, chisel plow, seed drills, row crop planters, disc


The term Conservation Tillage applies to many different types of tillage and planting equipment, as well as to the way in which they are used. One of the key goals of conservation tillage is to leave residues of previous crops on or near the surface of the soil. These residues cushion the erosive impact of raindrops on the soil surface, slow surface water flow, facilitate infiltration of precipitation into the soil, and conserve moisture. In Ontario, land is considered to be conservation tilled or planted when at least 20 to 30% of the soil surface remains covered with crop residue after planting.

The equipment described in this handbook can assist the farm operator in achieving these residue targets. The handbook is organized by conservation tillage or planting system as described below:

  1. minimum or mulch tillage - any system that includes some form of tillage in fall and/or spring in which crop residues are partially incorporated into the soil. On many soils, 20 to 30% residue cover is effective in controlling erosion.
    In this handbook, the modified moldboard plow, the chisel plow and other types of minimum till equipment are considered part of this tillage system.

  2. conservation seed drills - a small slit is opened or a narrow strip of soil is worked by means of a non-powered ripple or fluted courter running ahead of. or with the seeding units. Chemical weed control generally substitutes for cultivation.

  3. conservation row crop planters - no seedbed preparation is required other than that provided by various optional non-powered attachments on the planter itself. The resulting tilled strip of soil in the row area is generally a maximum of 25 cm (10 in) wide and 15 cm (6 in) deep. Chemical weed control generally substitutes for cultivation.

  4. ridge tillage planting systems - a ridge of soil is formed when cultivating for weed control in row crops. The succeeding crops are then planted directly onto the top of the ridge after the existing crop residue is removed, usually by non-powered attachments to the planter.

In order to put the equipment photographs into context, the discussion about each system includes the following points: equipment modifications, attachments and costs (when available); field conditions of use; and practical tips for use.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

The handbook takes a pictorial look at conservation tillage equipment such as: modified moldboards, chisel plows, minimum till equipment, conservation seed drills, conservation row crop planters, and ridge till equipment. It highlights modifications to the various pieces of equipment and gives some practical tips on how to use the equipment in the field.


The handbook is an excellent approach to showing farmers some of the conservation equipment available, modifications to make the equipment more useful and some practical tips for use. It is ideal for a beginning farmer to review and get some general information on equipment.

New technology has developed since this book was written which dates this publication. The handbook only looks at equipment which is a small part of a conservation system. Other factors must be considered to make the system work.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #13 - The Effect of Moldboard Shape on the Residue Management Potential of the Moldboard Plow

  • SWEEP Report #20 - Conservation Tillage Equipment: Availability, Utilization and Needs

  • SWEEP Report #31 - Field Scale Tests of the Modified Moldboard Plow

  • SWEEP Report #40 - Management of Mulch Tillage Systems on Clay Soils

  • SWEEP Report #41 - Evaluation of Row Crop Planter Modifications for Corn Production within Conservation Tillage Systems

  • SWEEP Report #42 - Report on Development and Operation of the Cross-Slot Planter

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

(C) Update the handbook to include new equipment/modification ideas as technology evolves.





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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 08:58:07 PM