OSU Extension Conference Offers Education and Support for Conservation Tillage, March 5-6
Ohio – When it became apparent that the dry spell many Ohio growers were
experiencing last year would become the worst drought in 50 years, David Brandt
wasn’t worried about how well corn and soybeans on his 1,150-acre farm would
Carroll, Ohio farmer instead relied upon a natural form of insurance that left the
soils in his fields protected against the devastating effects of the record
heat and drought that decimated many farmers nationwide in 2012.
conservation tillage methods such as no-till and planting cover crops including
radishes and Austrian winter peas in 15-inch alternating rows, as well as an
eight-species cover crop blend, allowed the ground temperatures on his farm to
remain in a healthy range of 80 to 90 degrees while bare ground temperatures in
tilled fields reached as high as 130 degrees, Brandt said.
cover crops also helped retain higher soil moisture levels to help Brandt
produce 168 bushels of corn per acre, compared to around 100 bushels per acre
many growers using conventional tillage produced as a result of drought, he
were impressed with what we saw and I’m sure that our cover crops helped to
create a healthier soil that helped us grow healthy crops during the drought,”
Brandt said. “Whereas growers who used conventional tillage had stressed corn
and lower yields, conservation tillage prevented the same from happening to our
crops allow us to try to mimic Mother Nature by keeping the soil covered as
long as possible. And adding more
species in your cover crops results in more diversity in the soil with deeper
root systems, which helped our crops grow better.”
is just one of some 900 participants who are expected to attend the
Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference March 5-6 offered by Ohio State
University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
OSU Extension and OARDC
are the outreach and research arms of the College of Food, Agricultural, and
annual conference will offer the latest research, insight, tips and techniques on
conservation tillage including cover crops, no-till, soil quality, seeding
technology, water quality and nutrient management, said Randall Reeder, a retired OSU
Extension agricultural engineer and an organizer of the conference.
interest in conservation tillage has increased significantly in recent years as
more growers become more focused on maintaining and building their soils, he
many farmers have taken what goes on below the surface for granted,” Reeder
said. “They have fertilizer and other inputs to help crops grow, but in the
last few years have begun to pay more attention to soil quality, which includes
chemical and physical properties and the biology of soil.
are recognizing the value of having living roots in the soil year-round, not
just during the five months or so that corn and soybeans are growing.”
are also benefiting from the economics of using less machinery, making fewer
trips across the field, and the environmental impact of less runoff and erosion,
want to leave their land better than they found it and are realizing that the
most valuable resource on any farm is the soil,” Reeder said.
in the CTC conference may help growers achieve similar results as Brandt, even
in extreme weather conditions such as drought, said Jim Hoorman, an OSU Extension
educator and an assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality
tillage is any tillage and planting system that leaves at least 30 percent of
the soil surface covered by residue after planting, according to the
Conservation Technology Information Center in West Lafayette, Ind.
conventional tillage, the physical act of turning over the soil breaks open
soil aggregates, releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” said Hoorman. “In
addition, when we till the soil, the soil oxygen level increases and the soil
microbes respond by consuming more organic matter, releasing carbon into the
is significant considering that conventional tillage has reduced soil organic
matter levels by as much as 50 to 60 percent.”
using no-till and planting cover crops helps to keep the soil protected and
forms macro-aggregates, which store a lot of the carbon in soil. Growing cover
crops increases root mass in soils, which helps increase organic matter and
carbon content in the soil, he said.
results in cooler soils, increased water infiltration, more water storage capacity,
decreased soil compaction and keeps more carbon stored in the soil, Hoorman
key thing is carbon,” he said. “Nearly 60 to70 percent of soil carbon comes from
roots, so using cover crops such as oilseed radish and cereal rye increases
carbon sequestration by keeping the soil covered with live plants.
release of greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a problem,
but if we keep more carbon in the soil it improves the environment, improves
soil and may help lessen the impacts of extreme weather events.”
who, along with OSU
Extension educators Rafiq Islam and Alan Sundermeier and ten other speakers,
will present sessions on cover crops during the conference. In all, the two-day
conference will feature some 60 presenters. Information presented will include about
10 hours on nutrient management; eight hours on soil and water; “Corn University”;
“Soybean School”; crop scouting; no-till; and seeding technology.
said interest in no-till and cover crops is growing because of the increased
yield and profit potential, and cost savings from using less nitrogen fertilizer
whole situation is creating a new system called ‘ecological farming’ by trying
to farm in Mother Nature’s image by not disturbing the soil,” he said. “It
changes your whole philosophy about how you go about farming.
may have to sacrifice a little bit in the short term, but you’ll see tremendous
long-term gains with this kind of farming.”
for some growers, it can be a hard sell, said Brandt, who works with OSU
Extension and OARDC researchers on cover crops on his farm. That's especially true
for farmers who have used conventional tillage for years and may find it harder
to adjust, he said.
all get into a rut in how we do things and using cover crops is a whole
different mindset,” Brandt said. “The hesitation is that we have been taught to
use conventional tillage for years and years, which makes it harder to change
that paradigm to do something different.
like putting your pants on right leg first for years, then having to change and
put your pants on with your left leg first. But if we don’t change our habits,
we won’t be able to continue to provide food for the world if we continue to
wear out the soil. We’ve got to conserve the soil by using cover crops and
The Conservation Tillage
and Technology Conference is March 5-6 at the McIntosh Center of Ohio Northern
University in Ada. The full schedule and registration information can be found
at http://ctc.osu.edu. Participants may register online or by mail. Registration for
the full conference is $85 (or $65 for one day) if received by Feb. 27.
Information is also available in county offices of OSU Extension.
conference is sponsored
by OSU Extension, OARDC, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts,
the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Ohio No-Till Council.
James J. Hoorman