Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance confirms no-till improves soil health

WIOTA, Wis. — Jason Rowe decided to implement no-till on his farming acres because the soil health needed improvement and it was economically beneficial.

“I work full time, so I don’t have a lot of time to sit in a tractor and drive across the field all day,” Rowe said standing in his soybean field. “My other farms are rough enough, where if you want to pick up rocks for two weeks, you have to start no-tilling.”

A Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance field day, held on May 21, had two dozen farmers looking at and discussing the benefits of no-till and cover crops. Josh Kamps, University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture educator, provided insight into why implementing the two practices together improves soil health.

Rowe had two different plots in his field – one no-till and the other with a rye cover crop and no-till. Kamps dug two soil samples and explained why field days give farmers an opportunity to see conservation practices in action.

“With the increased practices comes a little more risk, a little more management for the farmer,” Kamps said. “I think it’s really neat to see what the outcome is and then the farmers can go back and look at the decision-making side of it and see if they can implement that on their farms.”

Rowe’s soybean field is in its second year of no-till. He has noticed improved soil health when cover crops were also planted.

“The cover crops fit into the no-till system,” Rowe, a member of LASA, said. “I have a lot of ground that is tougher soil types, and over the year’s it’s been abused and isn’t as healthy as it should be. I started doing cover crops and no-till to start improving soil health.”

LASA, a farmer-led watershed conservation group in Lafayette County, has given farmers in the southwestern part of Wisconsin the opportunity to implement conservation practices through its cost-share program. Members can receive $20 per acre up to 50 acres if they try a new practice like cover crops, 4-R Nutrient Stewardship or no-till/reduced tillage.

Kamps said farmers should work toward being sustainable and set conservation goals. He also said the idea of planting through leftover crop residue does not have to be feared with the correct equipment.

“I think we have to start with the end in mind,” Kamps said. “So, the goal is to have ideal soil conditions and get good seed placement. Farmers can no-till plant with some of the precision planters, and by having the equipment set up right, Jason was able to plant into this no-till setting.”

At the end of the field day, two soil samples were shown, one that had been in a no-till system for two years and the other for over five years. Dan Smith, researcher in the Nutrient and Pest Management Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained why no-till is better for the soil.

“Certainly, the longer the soil is in a no-till system the better the soil conditions typically improve because of the less disturbance,” Smith said.

Resources:

LASA logo

LASA Field Day photo album

Video: Josh Kamps shows different conservation practices

Video: Jason Rowe explains why he is no-tilling

Video: The difference in no-till soil health

Caption: Jason Rowe (standing next to truck) explains to farmers why and how he implemented no-till and cover crops into his soybean field at a Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance field day on May 21 at his farm in Wiota, Wis.

About Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance:

Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance is a farmer-led non-profit organization with a vision of a community where farmers and friends of agriculture work together to protect and improve water quality and the environment. The group is based in Lafayette County in southwestern Wisconsin. More information: www.lafayetteagstewardship.org.

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