Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Healthier Soils Survive Drought Better


I have been digging in my soils after my ninth crop season on this farm, wondering if I have left it better than I found it. It's a "notiller's dream" with its rolling hills and once rich soil but it is also a real challenge to keep in place, control the weeds and still make a profit, let alone improve.

I came across this video on today's subject and there are three of my friends! I think each one will tell you I shared something with them that was taught to me that has helped their farm. Now they are on YouTube in a USDA NRCS promotion! That kind of stuff just warms my heart.

Why would my curiousity lead me across so many great people's path? What did I say that made a difference, why did they even listen? That's got to be God working because I am really a pretty common person. My thinking might be a little out of the box(don't ask my family about that) but I am just an ordinary person like you.

This farm has let me try my ideas and you know darned near every one of them make money! Some of them just make more than others! Continuous notill corn would be very profitable now but I like the change of seasons and crop rotations. I like corn, soybeans and cereals so well that is hard to pick one. They will all make money next year.

For soil improvement, wheat makes the most sense. 70 bushels times $9 is a decent gross income for the investment. Then you have time to apply for drainage improvements, lime, gypsum, weed control, cover crops and a host of things. Double crop soybeans work so well for me they usually end up being too attractive to pass up instead of those other opportunities.

Soybeans are the "hardest on the ground" but I have neighbors nearby who have raised soybeans every year for 10, 20 and 30 years. They have nice machinery and don't seem to be hurting for money. There soils are harder than mine but they still have a lot of earthworms.

I know a longer rotation adds diversity so 2 years corn, 2 years soybeans and one year wheat or barley is about as far as you can rotate successfully around here. The third year often causes problems, like they used say you had to notill for 3 years before you saw real problems. After 5-7 years the soil structure improves enough you can't afford to go back.

That is unless you have these notill trees I am getting hammered with. I call them sumacs but I really need to look them up. Here is a good outline I need to read and follow. Perennials have thrived the last 3 years and outgrow annual crops in years like these.

I don't know if these trees are a sign of a healthy soil but no one around here seems to have the problem I have.

My quest for healthy soil has led me to a lot of good people including you my readers. I think we do share that in common.

Healthy soils do survive drought better.

Ed

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