Monday, June 27, 2011

No-till, Mulch-till, or Conventional-till Corn?

It may seem like a strange title, but this is the type of question that is being asked thousands of times all around our state in various counties right now. Conservation and agricultural professionals are asking specific questions, about very specific fields, which have had this type of information collected from them for over 20 years. We call it the Indiana Tillage Transect.

The Tillage Transect is a mechanism for tracking trends in conservation and cropland trends. The information collected can help us determine whether important soil quality building conservation activities, such as No-till, are being more heavily adopted or not. We can also take the collected data and estimate the average annual soil loss from Indiana’s agricultural lands. All of this information can help us to determine how to focus conservation efforts and resources in the future.

Very simply, every county has a designated route where information is visually captured from the road and recorded for later analysis. The routes generally travel throughout the main ag areas of the county. There are designated points, at regular intervals along the route where information is observed (typically this can be done from the road) and recorded. Information such as: current planted crop, previous crop, type of tillage used prior to planting-if any, and an estimated amount of residue (plant matter) remaining on the soil from the previously harvested crop (this is an indicator of soil erosion potential as bare soil can erode rapidly).

I know that this project may sound a little less than exciting, but the information is quite valuable. In fact, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) regularly requests this data to aggregate with other states’ data for tracking national cropland trends. In fact, the true value of this project may lie in the opportunity the transect presents for the key, local conservation experts to tour their county/area of responsibility together, discussing conservation planning solutions for observed environmental concerns (i.e. severe soil erosion, instances of impaired water resources) .

See our Conservation Tillage Program web page for more information and to see past Tillage Transect results!  To learn more about ways to improve soil health, improve profitability, and enhance your environmental stewardship....go to the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative site.

No comments:

Post a Comment