With skyrocketing fuel costs, many farmers will be looking at the benefits of reduced fall tillage. Here are nine pointers from the NRCS to help make residue work for you.
1. Reduce soil erosion. Residue left on the surface prevents raindrops from directly impacting the soil surface. Raindrops hit the residue first, then gently run onto the soil, stopping soil erosion.
2. Better infiltration. With rain more gently applied to the soil surface, soil crusting and compaction are reduced. This allows more water to infiltrate into the soil. This runoff reduction leaves more water for use by crops and replenishes groundwater supplies.
3. More organic matter. Residue management systems--no-till, mulch till, or strip till-- increase the valuable organic matter content of the soil. More biological activity and active earthworms create healthier soils.
4. Lower fuel and labor costs. By keeping tillage operations to a minimum, there's less time on the tractor and that means less gasoline. It also means less wear and tear on your equipment. Fewer trips over the field also reduce soil compaction.
5. Cleaner air. By not making so many trips across the field, less dust, carbon dioxide and pollution enter the atmosphere.
6. Increased soil moisture. By reducing evaporation at the surface, no-till can hold moisture in the soil longer. With this yearâ€™s drought conditions, no-till was a life saver for some.
7. Stabilize soil temperatures. Residue can keep soil temperatures slightly lower, which can reduce the root growth restrictions caused by higher temperatures.
8. Reduce sedimentation. By reducing soil erosion, your residue keeps more soil where it belongs--in your field--and keeps it out of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds.
9. Better water quality. Reductions in soil erosion and improvements to soil health keep soil and sediment out of water resources. This improves water quality for humans and wildlife.