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MULTI-SPECIES COVER. Paul Jasa typically sows a 12-14 species cover crop into wheat stubble. He says diversity of both warm-season and cool-season species is the key to maintaining roots growing in the field after winter kill takes out warm-season species. Paul Jasa

Take a Systems Approach to No-Till to Improve Soil Health

University no-till plots show significant benefits over conventional tillage, but when combined with systematic crop rotations & cover crops, the results are cumulative

No-Till Legend Paul Jasa has been studying conservation tillage — and no-till in particular — since 1981 for the University of Nebraska. Decades later, he’s convinced parking the plow is only the first step to unlocking the many benefits of a system that will improve farm productivity by building soil structure and enhancing soil biology

Jasa, an ag engineer, recalls a mid-June trip to western Nebraska that saw an overnight thunderstorm drop 6 inches of rain in the area.

“I was out taking pictures of a field the next morning when a farmer drives up and asked what I was doing,” Jasa says. “I asked him how much rain he got during the night. Frustrated, he exclaimed, ‘6 inches. Worthless rain. Came so fast it crusted my field and washed out my terraces. When am I going to be able to get back in there to till and replant? Worthless rain!’”

Meanwhile, the no-till field across the road showed only minimal water behind the roadside terrace, his crop was not disturbed, and a moisture rod revealed a full moisture profile down to 6 feet raising grain sorghum.

“The no-tiller told me it was the best rain he had in ages,” Jasa says. “Same rain. And only a road and management differences separated the two fields.”

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • No-till’s value lies in residue and the residue’s ability to protect the soil surface from sun, wind and the impact of rainfall.
  • Having residue to protect the soil surface helps build up soil…
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Dan crummett 0618

Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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