The health of the soil is improved by limiting disturbances, Ray Archuleta, NRCS researcher, told attendees of a training event on no-till and cover crops in Greensburg, Ind.

Cover crops are important not only for providing cover and protection to the topsoil, but also for creating diversity that creates a support network to hold soil particles together, Archuleta says. That enables soils to better hold nutrients and moisture.

Archuleta says soil disturbances needs to be minimized in farming. No-till and well-chosen cover crops create a network of microorganisms and roots to hold soil together, reducing erosion and the need for applied fertilizers. Specific cover crops and practices can be prescribed for any soil concern, he explains.

There are biological means to address the needs of the land that work better in the long run to promote conservation and maintain yield, he says. By avoiding unnecessary tillage, the diversity both above and below the soil will improve, better mimicking nature.

Healthier soil, he told field day attendees, enables a producer to use less inputs while also keeping water clean.

"We have to wean ourselves off of tillage mentally, and we have to wean the soil of tilling, too," Archuleta says. "Tillage begets tillage."

Barry Fisher, Indiana NRCS agronomist, notes that cool-weather plants can do a lot for producers by providing a higher functioning, more productive soil.