No-till crops survive summer heat and drought
The benefits of no-till farming and management for soil health were on full display Sept. 5, when the South Central Kansas Residue Alliance made its annual summer crop tour of eight fields in Harper County to see firsthand how they fared at the end of a second blistering-hot, dry summer.
Lyle Frees and Terry Hodgson of the Natural Resources Conservation Service were leaders of the tour. Frees is the Kansas State agronomist with NRCS and Hodgson is a district conservation officer. More than 100 farmers from the 10 counties that make up the alliance attended the tour.
• South Central Kansas Residue Alliance makes annual summer crop tour.
• Harper County farms on tour suffered back-to-back years of heat and drought.
• Advantage of no-till in dry weather were apparent in fields on the tour.
The South Central Kansas Residue Alliance was formed in 1985 with the goal of increasing the amount of no-till, strip-till, mulch-till and other residue management practices to reduce runoff, conserve water and promote the health of the soil.
“The goal for the healthiest soils is no disturbance of the soil, cover 100% of the time, living roots, diverse crops and careful livestock management,” Frees told the group.
Hodgson warned the group that they would not be walking out into lush, beautiful fields.
“Mother Nature has not cooperated,” he said. “Rainfall has been scarce and heat has been plentiful. It makes it pretty difficult for anything to survive. I think you will be amazed, however, at how much actually is still green — in spite of only an inch or two of rain during the hottest months of summer.”
Harper County farmer Jim Robb, tried planting soybeans and corn together in a field toured by the South Central Kansas Residue Alliance in September.
Dave Wedman offered the South Central Kansas Residue Alliance’s summer tour group a chance to see some of the machinery he says has helped make a difference on his no-till operation.
On the Jim Robb farm, the South Central Kansas Residue Alliance members got a look at a field of cover crops where only 1.2 inches of rain had fallen since June 17.
Jim Coady has been a no-till experimenter since 2000 and a committed 100% no-tiller since 2004.
This article published in the October, 2012 edition of KANSAS FARMER.