Clermont soil is flat, tight, full of clay, gray and naturally wet. When it's perfect to till, half a day later it's too hard, more or less. Yet this is the majority of the land that Mark Back, Cross Plains, deals with as he raises corn and soybeans. He also has some Avonburg soil which tends to be the rolling hills sometimes found along the edges of Clermont soil.
No-till has worked for Back, both in corn and soybeans. His operation is about 90% no-till, he says. Another item that works for him is a large grain cart for harvest, set up on tracks, not rubber tires. He's convinced that the tracks help him do less damage to the soil.
While he says they're careful, Back notes that the grain cart is in the field part of the time. It has a large footprint, distributing the 1,375 bushel capacity of the J & M cart over more acres.
Now is a great time to review how harvest went last season, and to plan possible changes for '11, if any are needed. For most, harvest was much smoother in one of the driest falls on record than a year earlier, in one of the wetter falls on record. Many farmers won't face rut problems this next spring as they did in the spring of 2010.
However, soil scientists warn that there can be soil compaction without ruts, and that it likely isn't fixed in one season. Its impact tends to be felt m0ore in corn, and the compaction caused in 2009 could still cause farmers to see problems in 2011, especially in corn if it should turn dry again this summer.
Back and his crew didn't create ruts with their large grain cart last fall, he says. He believes it's an integral part of how they are able to harvest efficiently each fall.
If there's a drawback to a large cart on track, it's that's parts are expensive. Back has had to replace one of the two metal wheels that make up each corner of the cart. It's not a job he relished doing, or paying for, he notes.