No-till tips for improving soil

July 21, 2017

Pine Lodge South farmer David Cook with University of Nebraska educator Paul Jasa and Canadian farmer Blake Vince. Mr Jasa and Mr Vince spoke at the Victorian No-Till Farmers Association conference last week.

Keeping or improving soil health for future generations is the main focus of no-till farming according to two international guests from North America.

Canadian farmer Blake Vince and University of Nebraska educator Paul Jasa visited Pine Lodge South farmer David Cook’s property last week ahead of the Victorian No-Till Farmers Association conference, held on Thursday and Friday.

Both men agreed that maintaining soil health was important.

‘‘Our focus or mantra is to leave the soil that we farm today in better condition than we acquired it for future generations, regardless of whether it’s our children or someone else’s children who is the successor,’’ Mr Vince said.

Through his research at the Rogers Memorial Farm, a no-till research farm owned by the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln campus, extension engineer Mr Jasa said he had learnt no-till farming was about more than the equipment used.

‘‘I started researching at the farm in 1978. In that time I have learnt no-till farming is more than just equipment — it is more about systems,’’ he said.

‘‘You’ve got to have a systems approach.’’

Mr Jasa said regardless of the farm, five steps were needed for no-till farming.

‘‘You need minimal to no disturbance of the soil; you have to keep the soil covered with either a crop or cover crop; number three is the importance of biology diversity; number four — making sure there is a living root in the soil all the time; and finally, integrating livestock back in to the paddock is also important,’’ he said.

On biology diversity, Mr Jasa explained why it was the most important.

‘‘Would you want to eat the same thing every day? Well, your soil doesn’t either.

‘‘If you have one or two crops, seeding and harvest season will be short. More crops equals a longer season. If you have spots, weeds will start to grow. You have to keep something growing all the time,’’ he said.

Having been a no-till farmer since 1983, Mr Vince said he was proud of his achievements.

‘‘I work alongside my father Elwin and uncle Tom and our farming operation today has 1300 acres (526ha). We try and grow corn, soy beans and winter wheat and we use a lot of mixed species cover crops.

‘‘As a 45-year-old, my claim to fame is that I’ve never used a moldboard plough,’’ Mr Vince said.

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