What is in this article?:
- Plowing could promote wind erosion during drought conditions
- Consider all options
This could be a good year to park the plow, according to an Oklahoma conservation official.
Dust storms take valuable soil off Southwest farmland each spring. Changing tillage practices could help, say conservation officials.
Consider all options
“Producers need to look at all their options before they tear into their fields this spring and summer,” Farber said. “Luckily alternatives can help control weeds while reducing costs and exposure to wind erosion.”
Farber says no-till and minimum-till production offer possibilities. These practices not only save soil, but also may save producers money by reducing fuel costs. Studies have shown that no-till crop production requires 3 to 4 gallons of diesel less per acre to produce a crop. In addition, studies by Oklahoma State University have shown that more than 1 inch of water is lost from the top 15 inches of cultivated soil after the first pass with tillage equipment. These studies also have shown that ground farmed with no-till methods holds more water after each rain event than conventional tilled ground, increasing the amount of sub-soil moisture available for crop production.
Additional research shows that by reducing tillage a producer can help increase organic matter in their soil, and for every 1 percent increase in organic matter, the moisture holding capacity of that soil triples. That equates to additional water for growing crops that Farber said will be critical if the long range drought forecasts are correct.
“We have to be mindful of both the current weather conditions and the long range weather outlook,” Farber said. “With the possibility of below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures for the next few months, we need to use every tool at our disposal to minimize subsoil moisture loss and exposure to wind erosion. If we can do this in a way that saves us money on diesel costs, that seems like a good deal to me. The bottom line is that we all need to think before we plow this year and make sure we aren’t opening ourselves up to major soil erosion problems. We don’t need to re-learn the lessons of the 1930s.”
Producers who would like more information on long term weather conditions and measures to reduce exposure to wind erosion are encouraged to contact their local conservation district office, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission or their local OSU Extension office.