Conservation Tillage and Wildlife. Modified by the GA Agriculture Education Curriculum Office July 2002. Tillage practices greatly influence wildlife habitats in agricultural landscapes. Approximately 382 Million Acres of U.S. Cultivated Cropland. 1992 NRI.
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Conservation Tillage and Wildlife
Modified by the GA Agriculture Education Curriculum Office
Tillage practices greatly influence wildlife
habitats in agricultural landscapes.
Approximately 382 Million Acres of U.S. Cultivated Cropland
Conservation Tillage - Any tillage and planting system in which
at least 30 percent of the soil surface is covered by plant residue
after planting to reduce soil erosion by water; or where soil erosion
by wind is the primary concern of at least 1,000 pounds per acre
of flat small grain residue equivalent are on the surface during the
critical erosion period. [NRI-92]
Conventional Tillage- Tillage types that leave less than 15 percent
residue cover after planting, or less than 500 pounds per acre of small
grain residue equivalent throughout the critical wind erosion period.
Generally involves plowing or intensive tillage. [CTIC-97]
Reduced Tillage - Tillage types that leave 15-30 percent residue
cover after planting or 500 to 1,000 pounds per acre of small grain
residue equivalent throughout the critical wind erosion period.
Conservation Tillage – Increasingin Popularity for its Conservation andEconomic Benefits.
1996 CTIC data
Tillage Practices Affect Wildlife
in 4 Primary Ways:
Crop Residue Provides Wildlife Cover
In general, the higher the amount of crop residue,
the greater the value for wildlife cover.
Standing crop residue is particularly important.
Small mammal diversity
Crop Residue Provides Wildlife
Waste grain provides food for:
Waterfowl, songbirds, upland game
birds, deer, small mammals, etc.
Tillage-Associated Disturbance and Wildlife
Adverse effects on nesting birds in crop fields:
Bird species found to nest in conventionally-tilled (T)
and no-till (NT) corn and soybeans (from Best 1986)
Reduced tillage (e.g., mulch and ridge till) systems may
provide enough cover to attract nesting birds, but the level
of disturbance during the crop cycle offers little chance for
nest success, creating ecological traps.
Frequency of disturbance may be more important than the
amount of nesting cover available - no-till provides the
best cover with the least amount of disturbance.
In general, tillage systems that reduce the number
of equipment passes and leave standing crop residue
improve nest success except when:
Pesticides and Wildlife Risks:
Contact transfer from adults to young
Direct spraying on eggs and young
Ingesting poisoned insects and granular
Insecticides are Generally More Toxic to Wildlife
than Herbicides, but Both May Cause Adverse Affects
Producers can use scouting and
other IPM measures and can select the least
toxic pesticide to use where needed
Conservation Tillage Benefits
In the absence of natural grasslands, croplands can
provide “surrogate” grassland environments
for many grassland birds and other wildlife.
By providing food and cover, conservation tillage on
croplands enhances habitat quality for many species.
Any shift in tillage practices that increases crop residue
and/or decreases disturbance is beneficial.
conventional to reduced tillage
ridge-till to no-till
For more information on
Conservation Tillage and Wildlife
See comprehensive literature review on the WHMI website