Friday, May 7, 2010

Save Money, Save Soil

There is a tremedous amount of data and information out there for farmers to digest these days about how to improve farming. It seems like everybody has a tool, seed, herbicide, or method which will improve profitability and help the farmer be more efficient. One thing for sure that can help you make more money on your farm at the end of the day is to spend less on your inputs. By "inputs" I mean, the cost associated with getting the crops planted all the way through grain delivered.

One method that seems to pencil out time and time again is continuous no-till/strip-till. No-till is a tillage system in which the soil is not disturbed before planting, except for injecting fertilizer nutrients such as liquid manure or anhydrous ammonia and opening narrow strips with a coulter or disk seed-furrow during planting. This means that tillage is entirely eliminated. Furthermore, the entire residue from the previous crop remains on the soil’s surface to protect it from erosion. The economic benefits can really be seen when considering the costs of fuel, machinery, time for labor, and yield returns in dry years (generally more available moisture in no-till).

This is a conservation blog, so of course I have to mention that no-till/strip-till have many, many more advantages for the environment over conventional as well. Conservation tillage, particularly in the form of long-term or continuous no-till, minimizes the soil leaving the field by maintaining a cover on the soil's surface. Since nutrients that can pose some environmental concerns, such as phosphorus, are bound to soil particles the soil savings is doubly important.

There are many more benefits that I could go on about, but I'll stop by referencing one great resource to learn more about no-till/strip-till, cover crops, precision farming and nutrient management, the Conservation Cropping Systems Inititaive. This website has some excellent resources, including two good videos detailing no-till planter setup, and contact information for recieving specific technical help with these practices. Thanks to the Indiana State Soil Conservation Board, the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service, and our other conservation partners for making this great initiative possible!


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