Showing posts from November, 2020

Healthy Soils Suppress Pets

Farmers who improve soil health increase the amount of soil carbon being stored, and recycled. The increased carbon flow increases microbial numbers and efficiency leading to improved plant photosynthesis. The entire soil ecosystem functions at a higher level. The overall effects are healthy plants that have less disease and insect issues and higher overall yields. Soils high in soil organic matter (SOM) allow carbon to cycle in many different forms. The soil microbial community adjusts to these changes in the quantity of recycled carbon and nitrogen and this has an effect on the amount of phosphorus, sulfur, and micro-minerals released in the soil. Many of these trace minerals like manganese, iron, copper, and zinc are essential micronutrients needed to suppress disease. Plants activate plant proteins into enzymes to fight diseases using these micro-nutrients as co-factors. All soils have pathogens but healthy soils can tolerate these pathogens because healthy plants have the ability

Stop Tilling to Improve Soil Health

No-tilling corn is a difficult transition for most farmers. When farmers start no-tilling, the transition time may last 3-7 years and corn yields may often be reduced during that transition period. An alternative is to strip till the soil which gives a farmer some of the benefits of each tillage system. Strip-tillage is minimum tillage 6-10 inches wide and 3-8 inches deep in a band where the corn seeds will be planted next year. The area between the tilled strips is no-till which allows the soil to be protected by crop residue and/or cover crops. The tilled zone typically driers out and is warmer in the spring, promoting good corn germination.  Typically, a farmer will pre-form the strips in the fall using specialized equipment, although sometimes the strips are formed in the spring, depending on weather conditions. Generally, strip tillage reduces the number of field tillage operations down to one or two passes compared to several passes using conventional tillage. Most strip till equ

Reducing Soil Compaction

Indian Summer is here with warmer temperatures and some sunlight as farmers try to finish up harvest. A lot of field work is being done including deep and shallow tillage. A farmer down the road from my house, did some deep ripping on very wet soils. When he left, I think he might have left half the field on the road! Even though we had extremely dry weather this year, recent rains have kept our soils really moist, even muddy. As farmers, we might want to think about what long-term damage that tillage equipment might be doing to our soils. The following information comes from an article I co-wrote on “The Biology of Soil Compaction” Journal of No-till Agriculture in 2011. Soil compaction is a common and constant problem on most farms that till the soil. Heavy farm machinery can create persistent subsoil compaction. Scientists have found that compacted soils (a) physically restricted root growth; (b) decrease root zone aeration; and (c) reduces drainage, (d) increased losses of nitrogen

Corn and Soybean Cover Crop Management

As fall harvest progresses, farmers are looking ahead to next year’s crop. Corn and soybean farmers utilizing no-till and/or cover crops may need to make different management decisions than conventional tillage farmers. Enclosed are tips for managing cover crops and making fertilizer adjustments. Legumes and clover cover crops are usually planted before corn because they make nitrogen (N). Legumes and clovers maximize N production (85-90%) at blooming, so terminate these cover crops before they set seed and the N is ties up. Most organic N is in the leaves and becomes available to the next crop 2-5 weeks after they decompose. Most no-till farmers add 40-60# N in a corn starter to stimulate early corn growth, when soil microbial communities are lower and recovering after a cold winter. Microbial populations increase exponentially with moisture and warmer soils in late spring and early summer, recycling soil nutrients to the next crop. Long-term N studies show that 20-50% of corn N comes