Maintaining Soil Productivity with Strip-Till

In the grand scheme of things, many people say climate change is the most critical issue facing mankind. But to me, the most important challenge is not just maintaining, but improving the productivity of the soil. Without healthy soil, we won’t be able to continue feeding the growing world population.

One thing we need to do is stop referring to plant residue as “trash.” It’s as valuable as the crops we sell because it sustains the soil. So it’s important to implement practices that keep residue on the surface in an aerobic environment so it can become humus.

Nature creates soil by taking the minerals in clay and sand and adding carbon to it from plant residue. And that starts at the surface and grows its way down. 

Worm Channels

Worms are a main carbon transfer — they feed on the surface and go below ground to hang out during the daytime in the transition area between the A and B horizons, where the temperature and moisture are to their liking. And then they come up at night again to feed and take residue back down into the ground where they excrete it out.

And if you don’t destroy the bio channels that the worms create, the plant roots follow down the channels and find this mother lode of nutrients and you get a mass of roots — and before you know it, your soils are getting deeper and deeper.

Restoring Soil Function

We also need to be very careful…

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Rod sommerfield

Rod Sommerfield

Rod Sommerfield and his son, Rick, farm about 500 acres in Mazeppa, Minn., about 200 of which has been in the family since 1892. He’s been strip-tilling for more than 2 decades and is the founder of Soil Organic Matter Generators, a mentoring group to help farmers transition to soil healthy practices.

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