April 24, 2017

Corn planted above average at 17%

Photo Courtesy of Imperial FFA Chapter
For the week ending April 23, 2017, temperatures averaged two to four degrees above normal, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Significant rainfall was limited to a few north central counties and some eastern areas. Corn planting was underway in most areas and the first fields of soybeans were planted. There were 4.9 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 6 percent very short, 21 short, 69 adequate, and 4 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 7 percent very short, 24 short, 67 adequate, and 2 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Corn planted was 17 percent, near 15 last year, and ahead of 11 for the five-year average. Emerged was 2 percent, near 1 last year and average.

April 20, 2017

How Radishes Improve Soil Quality

How Radishes Improve Soil Quality

Greg Whitmore of Shelby is enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership, a national data-driven initiative that encourages farmers to incorporate strategies to improve soil health on their land. These strategies include growing cover crops, practicing conservation tillage and advanced nutrient management. Cover crops such as radishes, turnips, rye and other species are not only helping Whitmore improve the overall quality of soil on his land. Cover crops are also helping him keep the soil he has.

 “I got tired of seeing that soil blow away in the spring or wash away down the hill during a hard rain,” he said. “Cover crops have helped stabilize the soil and improve its overall quality. We’re already seeing significant return in terms of productivity and reduced input costs.”

 “The cover crops also suppress weed growth, so I’m saving money on herbicide and reducing impact on the environment by reducing chemical use,” Whitmore added.

Typically, Whitmore plants the cover crops immediately after harvesting his primary cash crop. The cover crops grow in the months after harvest, keeping the soil “active” long after the primary crop is taken out of the field. When the cover crops eventually die off in the winter or are killed prior to spring planting, they add organic matter to the soil as they decay.

Importantly, the cover crops also help the soil retain moisture and withstand erosion during winter winds and early spring rains. As the roots burrow into the soil, they create “channels” for better water infiltration, nutrient dispersion and soil stability.

Radishes and turnips have deep tap roots which capture nutrients that may lie beyond the reach of the primary crop such as corn or soybeans. By absorbing those nutrients, the cover crop brings those nutrients closer to the surface, where they become available once the cover crops die off.
Greg Whitmore

“I see the use of cover crops as a key sustainability strategy for my farm,” Whitmore said. “I reduce erosion, reduce weed pressure, improve the soil’s nutrient value and enhance soil moisture. It’s a systems approach to soil health that isn’t just about cover crops, but requires holistic management of fertility, water, nutrients, tillage and other practices.”

April 18, 2017

Is soil "alive"? What's the difference between soil and dirt?

Is soil "alive"?

"There are living components in soil such as microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and even mammals," said Neil Dominy, Nebraska State Soil Scientist. "The inert material-the minerals-are not alive. But everything around that inert material and within that system is living."

What's the difference between soil and dirt?

Neil Dominy
First of all, there is a difference. And according to Neil Dominy, the answer is pretty simple. "Soil is in place, dirt isn't. Soil has integrity and has structure, living organisms, and has been in place over time."

Dirt, on the other hand, is mobile. "Dirt is what's on the road, the bottom of your shoes or in the air. It's out of place," Dominy said.

A Unique Partnership Focused on Improving Soil Health

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative focused on identifying, testing and measuring management practices to improve soil health and enhance sustainable agricultural production.

Many farmers across the country are implementing innovative management practices that result in economic and environmental benefits. The Soil Health Partnership builds upon the work of these farmers to provide connections between on-farm practices and improving soil health.

The following organizations provide funding and/or technical support for the partnership:ƒ
  • Monsanto
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
  • Midwest Row Crops Collaborative
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Environmental Defense Fund

“We have assembled a diverse group of excellent partners in this program,” said Dr. Nick Goeser, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership. “They each bring a unique perspective to the program that challenges us to think about working with farmers and agronomists in new ways. Their input and engagement continues to be invaluable in our efforts to tackle difficult issues and develop effective solutions and strategies.” 

Discover more at: soilhealthpartnership.org