When it comes to rejuvenating worn fields and pastures in the southern Plains, there were plenty of ideas shared among the nearly 200 people attending the Southern Soil Health Conference this week in Ardmore, Okla.
Click here to see some highlights from speakers on No-Till Farmer’s Twitter feed that you might find interesting, or search Twitter for #southernsoil2016.The event was organized by the cover-crop company Green Cover Seed in Bladen, Neb.
To sum it up, growers and ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma say they’re continuing to push forward with no-till practices, cover crops and modified grazing techniques to improve soil organic matter and water infiltration, improve nutrient cycling and boost the bottom line.
They’re often doing this to the scorn or amusement of neighboring farmers who continue to clean-till their fields and worsen problems with compaction and low organic matter.
While growing up, Haxtun, Colo., no-tiller John Heermann used to spend a lot of time in the tractor plowing and killing summer annual weeds, but he’s shifted to a system focusing on flexible rotations, cover crops and elimination of summerfallow. Heermann shared his “tools, goals and rules” for his farm, which receives only 17 inches of moisture annually:
- No tillage
- No fallow
- No set rotation
- Keep the soil covered
- Standing residue to stop any wind erosion
- Living roots 365 days a year
- A microscope
- Increase diversity through crop rotations, companion cropping and covers
- Reduction of herbicides, pesticides and inorganic fertilizers
- Always thinking of what impact my decision will have on soil biology
- 100% moisture capture
Since transforming his operation, Heermann says he’s reduced the share of herbicide costs in his farm budget from 30% to less than 1%.
“It’s all about returns per acre,” Heermann says.
Make sure to read the upcoming editions of Dryland No-Tiller, as we’ll continue to roll out information and insights that were shared during the event.