You may have heard the NRCS launched a campaign dubbed “No-Tillage November” encouraging growers to park their plows and preserve as much stubble on their harvested fields as possible to improve soil health.
The “Keep the Stubble” project is mirrored after the national cancer awareness No Shave November campaign that encourages people not the shave during the entire month.
If you’re not shaving to support cancer awareness, hats off to you. As for leaving crop residue alone, most of you are probably doing this already — but are you saving enough residue? As this campaign was announced, Nebraska officials shared some interesting statistics on the value of residue and what’s lost if it’s baled and hauled away.
Take cornstalks for example, says Nebraska State Conservation Agronomist Corey Brubaker. In Nebraska, cornstalk bales are currently selling for $45-$75 per ton. The estimated cost of baling cornstalks, considering the value of the nutrients removed ($28 a ton), custom raking ($3 a ton), and custom baling ($22/ton), is about $53 per ton.
If bales are sold at the lower end of the current rate, farmers not only lose money but also benefits from leaving residue on their fields in the form of erosion mitigation, organic matter content and nutrient recycling.
In NRCS literature about this month’s campaign, veteran Palmyra, Neb., no-tiller Mike McDonald reiterated his believe no-till is the cornerstone of sustainability on his farm.
“I truly believe if you are going to build your soil you can’t open up wounds,” says McDonald, who serves on the No-Till on the Plains board of directors. “I know we look at the residue, but the more I learn, the more I realize it’s the liquid carbon below the ground that is equally or more important than what’s above ground. Several friends have called it the ‘iceberg effect.’”
If you want to have a little fun this week, the NRCS is inviting growers to Tweet a ‘Stubble Selfie’ by printing off this sign, cutting it out and taking your picture with it and posting it with the hashtag #KeepTheStubble.
If you’re not info selfies, just keep those soils covered and continue banking on a brighter future with healthier no-tilled soils.