Occasionally videos or photos come across my desk that really summarize why no-till practices need to be the norm in the U.S.
Two weeks ago, high winds led to black-out dust storms across Interstate 80 in southeastern Nebraska. The Nebraska State Patrol says there were several accidents, including a 20-car pileup that led to injuries and one fatality. The interstate had to be closed for several hours in late April.
On April 30, Clark Poppert of Geneva, Neb., an agronomist with Servi-Tech, shot this video of two fields about 1½ miles apart northwest of Hebron to compare the effect of high winds on soil loss from tilled and no-tilled fields.
The tilled field with sparse soybean residue present produced a fast-moving cloud of dust as south winds sustained at 35 mph, with gusts topping 60 mph, blew away topsoil after being worked and planted to soybeans.
The no-tilled field, which is in a 3-year rotation of corn and soybeans, showed considerably less dirt blowing due to residue keeping it in place.
“I am an advocate for no-till, strip-till and ridge-till. I feel they all have their place. It just depends on what works best for the grower and the ground in question,” Poppert says in an article published by Nebraska Extension.
I wonder if the person farming the tilled field really understands how much money, literally, is blowing away in the wind in the form of organic matter. It takes over 500 to 1,000 years to grow an inch of topsoil, experts say, which means the soil from this field isn’t coming back in his lifetime or for many future generations.
The May 3 Drought Monitor map also shows that area as abnormally dry and flirting with moderate drought, which means the soil in this uncovered field will likely be baking and evaporating moisture until the canopy forms. And once rain does come, how much of it will infiltrate this worked field?
Even though no-till adoption has come a long way in the U.S., we still have a lot of work to do.