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Soil Erosion Doesn't Take Holidays!

Soil Erosion Doesn't Take Holidays!
Heavy rains did more than crust soil, they washed it out as well.

The picture here represents corn planted on a slight grade, maybe 3% slope. This isn't some gigantic hill.

It is, however, a minimum tillage field. When three inches of rain fell over three days a couple of weeks ago, water pounding the field found the courses of least resistance. They made gullies like this one, waking corn plants along with them as they went.

Is this enough damage to hurt yield? No, it's a short stretch. Is it enough to cause someone to rethink how they farm the field? Conservation personnel hope so. Even no-till with residue on top after planting won't stop all of this washing, but is should help limit the scope of the area.

Where did the corn go? This small grade was enough to let water from heavy rains build up force and take out part of a corn row.

Farmers like Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, are finding the best combination is no-till with cover crops. He farms many fields like these with small grades at different places in the field. He's not saying he's stopped all erosion, but he believes he does a much better job of keeping soil in place where he has crop residue cover, and especially where he plants cover crops.

Related: Soil Erosion Took Its Toll Over the Winter

Starkey sometimes kills the cover before planting into the field. In other situations, he plants into the field and then kills the cover crop. In either case the soil is protected during the spring season if big rains occur.

If this was a long grade winding through the field, a grass waterway might be an option. There are grass waterways in other parts of this field to prevent this type of washing to occur. Natural Resources Conservation Service employees are available to help advise whether a grass waterway is necessary. In many cases, cost-share is available for the waterway.

The problem with the scenario pictured here is that sediment washed off fields continues to be the number one pollutant in Indiana streams and waterways. Sediment sometimes carries attached nutrient or herbicide particles with it.

Thinking about a cover crop? Start with developing a plan. Download the FREE Cover Crops: Best Management Practices report today, and get the information you need to tailor a cover crop program to your needs.

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