Seminar urges farmers to use no-till
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Protecting the health of the soil and managing water on farm fields can be accomplished through no-till planting and utilizing the proper cover crops.
The federal Resource Conservation and Development Council’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania offices held a full-day seminar on no-till and cover crops at the Hawk Pointe Golf Club on Dec. 13.
Farmers and experts addressed the issues involved in no-till.
“You want to reduce tillage to decrease wind erosion,” said Christian Beach, an agricultural specialist for the North Jersey RC&D.
He said nature wants water to infiltrate the soil.
Tillage mangles the aggregate and releases carbon from the soil.
Tilled soil becomes more solid and doesn’t allow water to pass through properly.
Lucas Criswell farms in Lewisburg, Pa.
His 1,500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, rye and canola are managed without tilling.
He explained how in 1993 he used a no-till drill on 1,000 acres containing a number of different soils and he applied hog and chicken manure to the fields.
Another speaker was Ray Archuleta of Soil Health Consultants, LLC, and a former conservation agronomist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
“A lot of farmers follow one idea,” he said, but it pays to change.
That was the subject of a short film from the Stroud Water Research Center.
Jeff Frey of the center pointed out plowing was done for millennia and breaking up the soil in the Midwest was demonstrated as folly with the Dust Bowl.
If water can’t penetrate the soil, it will run off. It was runoff and non-compacted soils from the Midwest that created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as big as New Jersey.
Farmers, of course, are more concerned with the structure of the soil on their own fields.
“When it leaves, it’s someone else’s problem, Jan Battle of the water research center said of the eroded soil. Farmers do benefit from the solid structure of non tilled soil. They also benefit from the savings in planting. “It takes one-third the fuel to plant no-till as it does to till the soil.”
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