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Soil Tech Note 19A- Baby Steps

"Baby Steps"


  • Not everyone that comes in to sign up for farm program or you meet out at a soil pit is necessarily ready for cover crop transition or some other “major” farming operation change. 
  • They still might have an interest in improving their soil health and management.
  • Perfect players for “Baby Steps” or gradual steps and changes that will lead to soil improvements! 



Physical Property Changes

  • Reduce tire pressure on major tractors and other larger machinery.
  • Set up travel lanes in fields to reduce field crossings by harvesting equipment, grain carts, fertilizer trucks, etc.
  • Don’t field cultivate or chisel before spring planting.
  • Wait one more day when surface conditions are still tacky or muddy.


Chemical Property Changes

  • Know and understand residual nutrient carryover from prior year’s crop. Apply this the following crop year to fertilizer applications. 
  • Don’t burn your residue or stubble.  Especially bean stubble.   Any stubble is better than none!


Biological Property Changes

  • Be selective on cover crop choices.  Read, listen and talk to those who have used them to find out what will work best for you. 
  • Don’t be an “every-other-year” cover crop or no-till person.  The results wanted with cover crops and no-till, only come with patience and continual use.
  • If location and facilities are available, spread manure as appropriate.  
  • Don’t fall chisel bean stubble! 
  • Avoid monoculture cropping systems, such as corn on corn.  Crop diversity using legumes, grasses, and even a variety of commercial crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat will aid in improving microbial population and diversity of microbes.