Climatologists tell us we’ll continue to have weather extremes. We need to prepare ourselves to face these situations. After torrential rains last year, I saw several farms, especially where no cover crops were used, with obvious signs of soil erosion.
Every year, erosion causes loss of tons of topsoil which is high in nutrients and organic matter that can lead to reduced yield potential. Topsoil contains crop residue and manure if applied. Reduction in organic matter can cause lower water holding capacity and change the texture of the soil. The quality of water in lakes and streams is affected by the chemicals and nutrients brought in by the topsoil. This also gives farming a bad name.
We can’t completely eliminate soil erosion, but what can we do to reduce the loss of top soil? Here are seven ideas for reducing erosion.
1 - Start using minimum tillage - soon
Fifty years ago use of moldboard plows was common. They caused lots of erosion and loss of our topsoil. There has been a gradual change to minimum or no-till which has reduced the rate of erosion.
2- Look at the power of grass waterways
Maintaining grass waterways in low areas of the fields is an excellent idea. They reduce water runoff and mean fewer nutrients leaving fields.
3 - Keep crop residue in the field
When crops aren’t growing, crop residue on the surface protects soil from erosion.
4 - Consider going narrower at planting time
Crops planted in narrow rows canopy sooner and provide more protection of the soil.
5 - What's the right direction to plant? Think about slopes.
Planting crop rows perpendicular to slopes tends to decrease water runoff and increase infiltration.
6 - Don't underestimate the power of cover crops.
I am a strong believer in cover crops. They provide a good defense against soil erosion plus add organic matter. I would like to encourage every grower to plant suitable cover crops.
7 - Be a good steward and protect your land for future generations!
- Nanda is President of Agronomic Crops Consultants LLC .Email him at [email protected] or Call him at 317-910-9876