Managing The Underground

Growers understand that no-till has a favorable impact on soil management. It’s due to the many interconnections between tillage, cropping practices, fertilizer, soil amendments and other soil treatments that end up boosting your yields.  

Jill Clapperton says placement and incorporation of crop residues can have either a good or bad impact on the development of the soil organisms responsible for cycling nutrients. In addition, the placement of residues affects soil surface temperature, rate of evaporation, water content, nutrient loading and the actual rate of plant decay.

The consultant from Florence, Mont., and a rhizosphere ecologist at the Lethbridge Research Center in Lethbridge, Alberta, says tillage affects soil porosity and residue placement. The highly popular speaker at several National No-Tillage Conferences says porosity determines the amount of air and water that your soils can hold. Tillage collapses the pores and tunnels built by underground creatures and changes the soil’s water-holding, gas and nutrient-exchange capacities.

No-Till Benefits

Clapperton says no-tilling reduces soil disturbance, increases organic-matter content, improves soil structure, reduces soil temperature swings and allows soils to catch and hold more moisture. Since no-tilled soils are more biologically active and diverse, they have higher nutrient-loading capacities, gradually release nutrients and offer better soil structure than with extensive tillage.

No-till can also dramatically increase the population and diversity of your underground creatures that feed on fungi. No-till crop residue is primarily decomposed by fungal feeding mites that accumulate and use nitrogen before releasing the rest of this nutrient into the soil.

Quicker Recovery

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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