Managing Carbon Improves Soil Organic Matter And Yields

Dwayne Beck offers insights about ways crop residue can lead to healthier soils and greater crop production for the long run.

Dwayne Beck Puts It Simply: “No-till is not about a lack of tillage, it’s about carbon management. Not doing tillage is only the beginning.”

Beck, a widely respected expert on no-tilling and a frequent speaker at the National No-Tillage Conference, is a South Dakota State University botanist specializing in no-till systems and crop rotation effects. He manages the Dakota Lakes Research Farm at Pierre, S.D., where he is attempting to take no-till to an even higher level of profitability and sustainability.

“Our goal at Dakota Lakes Research Farm is to take all net geologic carbon use out of our system by the year 2026. Geologic carbon is soil organic matter, and geologic carbon is fossil fuel. If I’m going to make fossil fuels at the expense of soil organic matter, it’s not a win, it’s just a trade,” he says.

“In other words, we’re aiming for no net loss of organic matter while producing a sufficient amount of energy — it could be wind energy or biofuel — to replace the fossil fuel we use to manufacture, promote and transport all crop inputs and outputs. We basically want to reduce our environmental footprint to zero.”

Beck says a corollary goal is to stop all nutrient leakage from the land. “That means recycling all that is not sold and replacing what is sold. This includes stopping the leakage of carbon,” he adds.

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon is the key, he notes, because soil organic matter consists mostly of carbon, along with…

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