NRCS Advises Keeping Crop Residue to Avoid Erosion Problems
For Immediate Release
Jeffrey Hemenway, State Soil Quality Specialist Colette Kessler, Public Affairs Specialist, Pierre
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
(605) 352-1200 | firstname.lastname@example.org (605) 224-2476, Ext. 5 | email@example.com
NRCS ADVISES KEEPING CROP RESIDUE TO AVOID EROSION PROBLEMS
NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), Huron, SD, September 12, 2012—This year’s devastating drought not only shorted vegetation of valuable moisture, it reduced plant growth and protective cover for the soil. Conservation officials warn that the drought made our soil resource vulnerable and any tillage will only make conditions worse.
Soil Quality Specialist Jeff Hemenway with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Huron says if a producer reduces tillage, or increases surface residue, they can increase infiltration rates. “When we do get moisture, there will be more water going into that soil profile,” says Hemenway. “Surface residue will reduce erosion. And, by using residue to keep water in the profile, there will be more organic matter in the soil development as well as macro pore development.”
Hemenway says even reduced tillage this year can be more damaging than usual because the crop residue is very fragile. “If producers do tillage out there this fall, a greater portion of that residue will get buried,” he says. “When residue is buried, rather than left on the soil surface, farmers open themselves up for wind and water erosion.”
By eliminating disturbance (tillage), Hemenway explains that the soil will be better able to absorb any moisture when it returns. “Raindrops falling on bare soil dislodge soil particles resulting in water erosion,” he says. “Residue from vegetation intercepts the force of the raindrops letting more water infiltrate the soil profile instead of becoming runoff.”
Standing residue is also important for anchoring the soil. Hemenway advises farmers to be thinking into the future on how to keep residue cover on their fields. Some of the worst wind erosion occurs in March and April. Standing crop residue slashes the force of strong winds during these months. Producers can protect their fields this by eliminating fall tillage. “Soil is the foundation for next year’s crops and keeping it healthy is the first line of defense in battling damage from wind and rain,” he says.
Conservation assistance is available for anyone through NRCS field offices located in USDA Service Centers across South Dakota.
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