Benefits of conservation tillage on rainfall and water management
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Agriculture represents an important economic sector in Georgia, with a gross farm income of 4.91 and 6.75 billion dollars in 02 and 03, respectively. However, agriculture is facing pressure to improve its efficiency because of global competition and population growth. Water is an integral component in agricultural production and farmers must use this resource as efficiently as possible. Conventional tillage systems, which disrupt the soil surface and bury large amounts of crop residue, typically lose up to 30% of received rainfall in the form of runoff. These tillage systems also decrease irrigation efficiency due to increased evaporation. Conservation tillage systems reduce soil disturbance and maintain crop residue on the soil surface which protects the soil from erosive forces, moderates soil temperature, provides weed control, improves infiltration, and reduces evaporation. Soils under conservation tillage have increased water storage capacity due to additional soil organic matter. Properly managed soils protect surface water (e.g. streams and lakes) because sediment transport through runoff is reduced. Conservation tillage benefits agriculture and helps protect our natural resources.