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“Earthworm populations can increase by as much as 100% when tillage is reduced...” — Odette Menard, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saint-Hycainthe, Quebec
The key to retaining moisture under no-till conditions depends on improving soil organic matter and leaving residue on the surface to reduce storm runoff, says Jerry Hatfield. The head of the National Soil Tilth Laboratory at Ames, Iowa, says saving moisture also reduces soil-water evaporation, decreases soil temperatures in the summer and allows soil biological activity to function more effectively.
To move from 200- to 300-bushel no-till corn yields, Hatfield says you will need to conserve 5 additional inches of water that need to be available to the crop. “You can’t just depend on rainfall, as 300-bushel corn doesn’t come free,” he says.
About 90% of Ryan Speer’s acres in Sedwick, Kan., are seeded to cover crops or wheat during the winter, while cover crops or grain sorghum are seeded in the summer. Aerial photos show 100% cover in fields after harvest, which is his ultimate goal.
“If I can breakeven on the cost vs. the initial benefits of increased yields, reduced…