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Keep the stubble

Article cover photo
Tom Oswald, an ISA member and retired director from Cleghorn, examines the soil conditions in one of his fields. Oswald has been a long-time proponent of no-till conservation methods during his farming career. (Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Allie Arp, ISA research communications specialist; and Lindsey Foss, ISA public relations manager

During a special month-long campaign called “No Tillage November,” the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners encourage Iowa farmers to keep tillage equipment parked in their machine sheds this fall.

The project is mirrored after “No Shave November,” which encourages people to retire their razors for the month to spark conversation and raise awareness of men’s cancers. In a similar vein, the NRCS campaign encourages farmers to “keep the stubble” on their harvested crop fields to increase biological activity in the soil and boost underground nutrients. 

“Think of tillage like an earthquake — it’s a disruption to the soil that shatters the complex of biological communities beneath the surface,” said Tom Oswald, a corn and soybean farmer from Cleghorn, Iowa. “This disruption can increase erosion and the potential for nutrients to leak out of sync with the crop needs.”

Not only does reduced tillage protect Iowa’s rich soils (we’re home to 10 percent of the world’s best farm ground), it also provides wildlife habitat and saves farmers time and money.

“Fuel savings on a no-till operation are immediate, but there are many long-term benefits that accrue over time,” said Theo Gunther, resource management specialist for the Iowa Soybean Association. “In some areas of Iowa, the long-term benefits of no-till can also have a positive economic impact.”

The continued benefits Gunther refers to include improved soil structure and water infiltration; two benefits that reduce erosion, allow for better root development and increase overall soil health.

For all these reasons, the NRCS encourages the ag community to hang a “do not disturb” sign on their fields this fall. Follow along with #KeepTheStubble and #DoNotDisturb on Twitter to see how farmers are practicing conservation throughout the month.

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For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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Iowa Soybean Review

August 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.