During a special month-long campaign called “No-Till November,” the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is encouraging Missouri farmers to “keep the stubble” on their harvested crop fields and improve soil health.
“The No-Till November campaign encourages farmers to keep tillage equipment in machine sheds this fall because tillage reduces the amount of valuable crop stubble on the surface of their fields. The project is mirrored after the national cancer awareness “No-Shave November” campaign that encourages men to not shave during the month.”
“No-till farming, especially in conjunction with using cover crops, is the best thing that farmers can do to improve soil health,” said State Conservationist J.R. Flores.
Flores cited four basic principles for soil health: 1) Keep the soil covered as much as possible; 2) Do not disturb the soil; 3) Keep plants growing throughout the year to feed soil organisms; 4) Use plant diversity to increase diversity in the soil.
Managing for healthier soils leads to increased organic matter, more soil organisms, reduced compaction and improved nutrient storage and cycling. Healthy soils absorb and retain more water, making them less susceptible to runoff and erosion, which means more water is available for crops when they need it.
Farming practices that benefit soil health can improve profits because farmers spend less on fuel and energy. Many farmers also report that their yields increase as the health of their soil improves over time.
“No-till is the basic management tool behind building healthier soils,” Flores said. “The other principles are important, too, but making the decision to limit fall tillage is the key first step for farmers to take to improve soil health. No-till November is a good place to start.”
For more information about soil health and the No-Till November campaign, please go to www.mo.nrcs.usda.gov.