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With much of the country suffering from a lack of moisture, it’s a good time to think about the many benefits no-till offers in capturing valuable moisture from snow cover. This is also linked to the height of standing stubble left in your no-tilled fields after harvest and the impact it can have on capturing winter moisture.
Agricultural Research Service soil scientist David Huggins says having a smooth blanket of snow this winter can definitely boost dryland crop productivity next summer. And the researcher at Pullman, Wash., says no-till is one of the best ways to get that blanketed snow coverage.
Huggins looked at two farms with hilly topography in the Palouse region of eastern Washington. One farm has been under continuous no-till since 1999, while fields on the other farm continue to be conventionally tilled. For 2 years, Huggins and his crew measured snow depth, density, soil water storage and residue height at hundreds of points across fields at both farms.
Huggins found standing wheat residue on the no-till farm significantly increased the amount and uniformity of snow cover. Snow depths on the no-tilled fields ranged from 4 to 39 inches with an average depth of 11 inches.
Snow depths on the conventionally tilled fields ranged from 0 to 56 inches, but with an average depth of only 8½ inches.
“The snow distribution pattern with no-till made soil water distribution more uniform and increased soil water recharge rates,” says Huggins. “The more uniform snow distribution under…