Tillage Trends 6/16/17
On Tuesday we finished the spring tillage transect. We travel a set route. At every half mile we record crop, tillage, residue and cover crop. The spreadsheet we use then translates our data into percentages. We can then compare years to determine trends.
Two trends stands out. There has been an increase in tillage used to plant soybeans. Soybeans planted without tillage descended from 2011 at 42% to 27% in 2017.
This appears to me to correlate with the increase in use of vertical tillage implements. That operation is typically followed in the spring with a “finisher” the mashercrasherbasherslasher tool which does an efficient job of destroying soil structure and leaves very little residue on top to intercept the hammering raindrop. The ephemeral gullies we saw during the transect show the aftermath of those decisions.
It’s time to bust a myth. Corn stalks are decomposed by microbial activity. If the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes macro arthropods and worms are in low numbers or non-existent, corn stalks will decompose very slowly regardless of the chunk size. If your soil is healthy and full of those organisms and you feed those organisms sugars exuded from the roots of cover crops, you’ll be fighting to keep residue!
The second noteworthy trend is the increase in cover crop usage from 1% of cropland in 2011 to 9% in 2017. Your neighbors thank you.
Multiple farmers around the county are now growing their own cereal rye for their cover crop needs. That’s another good trend!
Call Lois Mann for info on the Fulton County SWCD Cover Crop Cost Share Program at 574-223-3220 ext 3.