Forego tillage for #Plant19 to improve soil health

Ashland SWCD offers no-till planter rental

When you think of farming, a tractor and plow may be the first things that come to mind – but not so for the folks at Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District. In fact, Ashland SWCD encourages their farmers to forgo spring tillage and utilize no-till management instead.

“No-till management just makes sense,” said Maxine Swaisgood, administrative assistant and resident “drill sergeant” for Ashland SWCD. Swaisgood has helped coordinate the district’s drill rental program for 10 of the 40-plus years the district has offered the program. “No till helps prevent erosion, keep nutrients in place on the farm fields where they belong, and it helps store carbon in the soil.”

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No-till is just what is sounds like.  A true no-till system avoids disturbing the soil with tools like chisel plows, field cultivators, disks, and plows. 

“No-till management saves fuel, time, and soil,” Swaisgood said. Reducing fuel, labor, and equipment costs are the most quantifiable benefits of not doing any tillage. Farmers make fewer passes through the field, which saves on fuel and soil compaction.

Reducing soil compaction one of the major benefits of no-till management. Soil gets compacted any time equipment drives over the surface. The weight of farm equipment compacts the air and water pockets present in soil that allow for the movement of water, crop roots, and soil organisms. 

No-till also improves soil structure. Tilling, our plowing, the soil disrupts the soil’s natural structure and releases some of the carbon soil organisms thrive on. Soil biology plays an important role in providing crops with the water and nutrients they need.

And the tillage makes soil more susceptible to erosion – and when erosion happens, that results in nutrients making their way into our waterways. Potential for erosion can be reduced by leaving more residue on the surface in the months when there are no crops growing.  Residue allows for rainwater and snow melt to infiltrate the soil rather than causing surface run off that will carry away topsoil and nutrients.Ashland SWCD’s no-till drills rent for $12/acre or a $100 minimum. In addition to the drills, Ashland SWCD also has a frost seeder that can be used to apply slug bait to cover crops, a tree planter and a strawchopper.

For more information about Ashland SWCD’s equipment rental program, contact Swaisgood at 419-281-7645. Producers must have a current rental agreement on file with the district and are responsible for picking up and returning the equipment from the Ashland SWCD office at 1763 SR 60, Ashland.

Ashland SWCD