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Competency Area 5: Soil conservation AEM

PO 50. Understand the adaptability of tillage systems to common soil types in the Northeast based on the following considerations:

  1. Texture
  2. Drainage class
  3. Climate


Light-textured soils benefit from heavy crop residue cover because of its moisture savings. These soils dry out quickly and are well-drained. No-tillage is therefore the system of choice on these soils.

Heavy clay soils dry out slowly in the spring and may cause corn to emerge slowly in no-tillage with heavy crop residue cover. Mulch-till, ridge-till or zone tillage may be the optimum choice, although some attachments on the planter may achieve satisfactory results in no-tillage as well. Slope and stoniness are also factors that determine which system is optimal.

On steeply sloping soils erosion control is more acute and greater residue cover more important. Stony soils are most suitable to no-tillage crop production.

Drainage class

In general, the better drained a soil is, the more suitable it is to high-residue or no-tillage farming. In well-drained soils moisture conservation is a benefit, and soil warming is generally not a big problem. In poorly drained soils, however, excessive moisture does not evaporate under a mulch layer, and early warming of the soil may be problematic, especially for corn production and other early planted crops, but not for fall-seeded crops or crops planted later than corn.

High residue systems are more challenging on poorly drained soils, but can be implemented successfully with some planting equipment modifications and proper planning of crop rotations. High residue systems on poorly drained soils may help facilitate non soil disturbing types of trafficability.


The major determinant of variations in climate in the Northeast is temperature and the onset of the seasons. High residue and no-tillage systems tend to have slower soil drying and warming in spring and are therefore more challenging in the northern parts of the Northeast.