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Saskatchewan farmers recognize the value of leaving direct seeded crop stubble standing, since it traps more snow than cut or chopped stubble. It’s especially important in western Canada where as much as one-third of the annual precipitation can come from winter snows, says Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association agrologist Tim Nerbas.
Leaving tall stubble also decreases costly evaporation at the soil surface. As a result, several research studies have shown that leaving uncut no-till stubble as tall as possible can boost both your water use efficiency and yields.
Even though you can’t influence the weather or precipitation, Nerbas says studies at the Swift Current, Saskatchewan, agricultural experiment station indicate standing stubble definitely increases snow trapping, which is directly proportional to stubble height. Researchers also found that leaving tall standing stubble reduces both wind speed and solar radiation, which reduces costly evaporation and keeps no-tilled soils cooler throughout the growing season.
At Swift Current, no-tilling wheat into 12-inch tall stubble boosted both grain yield and water efficiency by 12 percent compared to wheat seeded into tilled ground. The tall stubble also reduced the evaporative demand for water at the soil surface throughout the growing season and increased the proportion of soil water used to boost yields.
A recent 3-year field-scale study was done on a Swift Current farm to determine the impact of effectively managing stubble on the crop’s microclimate, water use and canola yield. Nerbas says a combination of canola seeded…