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No-Till Won't Solve All Soil Erosion Problems

No-Till Won't Solve All Soil Erosion Problems
Washing of stalks can still be an issue.

Maybe no-till planting is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Some people love it, others cuss it. Most agree it is best suited for sloping soils that need help in protecting the soil. What it's not, nearly everyone would agree, even soil conservationists who do the job as a career, is a cure-all for all situations and all potential soil erosion.

Planting in a field along a creek this spring, one farmer was faced with an unusual situation. Although it's not a large flood plain, with his field covering maybe 100 rod and only 20 acres before reaching the tree line rising up toward higher ground, he found considerable washing of residue, corn stalks to be exact, from overflow off the creek bank. The worst accumulation of stalks was some 100 yards into the field.

In places, there were such piles of stalks that it would have been difficult to run even a vertical tillage tool through them without plugging up. Right or wrong, he opted to burn off these stalks, probably amounting to about a half acre if it was all put together. It wasn't- it was spread out- just like the waters left it when it flooded.

The soil was wet underneath it, but since the areas were not wide, it was still possible to work through the areas after residue burned off, and later to plant soybeans through the places where stalks had been burned off.

What was striking was that the area where the stalks came from, the part of the field between the creek and the piles of stalks, was nearly void of residue. There was little residue showing as the planter went by. In other areas where washing didn't occur, there was still up to 70% residue cover after the vertical tillage tool trip, even though the pieces were smaller than they would have been in a true no-till situation.

Once residue is dislodged by factors such as flood waters, it not only leaves the soil bare and unprotected, but it becomes a problem to deal with. The bottom line in this case that even no-till or reduced tillage is not a foolproof answer. The lack of tillage needs to be combined with other conservation measures to protect the soil to the utmost during the entire year.

TAGS: Tillage
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