Corey Brubaker, a state conservation agronomist, says not tilling and keeping stubble on harvested fields enhances soil health.
“The idea is to keep that residue standing out there in the fields,” Brubaker says. “It does a lot of different things. It provides the cover on the field. That’s one of the #1 principles of soil health, to keep the soil covered. The second principle is really to disturb the soil as little as possible. It really meets the first two principles of soil health very well.”
Brubaker says if farmers don’t till their corn residue, there are multiple benefits, not the least of which is a natural snow fence.
“The other advantage of not tilling that corn residue in the fall is, it’s going to be able to trap the snow,” he says, “and also provide some benefit for wildlife, the cover that they might need in the winter months.”
Brubaker says no-till farming has been gaining popularity in Nebraska and it’s being practiced in 60-to-80% of the state’s counties.
“It is catching on and a lot of them are really taking that next step and putting cover crops out there, too,” Brubaker says. “That’s going to feed that soil some additional carbon over the winter. I’d really like to see more cover crops, particularly where we have bean residue out there, because it doesn’t provide near the protection that the corn residue does.”
Brubaker says by improving soil health, farmers help increase biological activity, provide erosion control and add nutrients.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton