Ag Answers: Soil Survey

The Morning Show

Jonathon Manuel from the U of I extension office joins the Morning Show to discuss dealing with soil erosion and how a survey can help prevent it.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is asking the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to conduct a Transect survey. This has been done every other year for several decades now. They go and look at the same points every other year.

The survey is conducted by soil and water conservation districts throughout the state. Together over 50,000 fields are checked and the crop recorded, the amount of crop residue present, and if the field needs additional conservation practices to control erosion. Here in Champaign County we travel approximately 600 miles checking all areas of the county.

The key to soil erosion control is to stop the action that raindrops have on fields by intercepting them before they hit the soil. 

The goal is to have at least 30% of the soil surface covered with crop residue so the raindrops hit that residue and it absorbs the energy present thus preventing the soil from being dislodged and carried away.

The best category is no-till where we have over 50% of the soil surface covered at planting time; mulch till is where that percentage cover is 30 to 50% cover. 

Reduced tillage is 15 to 30% cover and conventional tillage leaves less that 15% residue.

The key point we found is a lot of tillage was done last few times. This means we had a slowing in the steady progress made since the survey started in 1994. 

The state has moved from 46% of the fields having conventional tillage 1994 to 32% of conservation tillage in 2011. 

The mulch-tillage category moved from 10% in 1994 to 21%. 

The amount of tillage done over the years has changes and we are interested in seeing what the results will be this year.

Over the last 10 years many farmers have been waiting until spring to do tillage or using tillage equipment in the fall that leaves a significant amount of crop residue on the surface. Cover Crops have been added to some fields. We are also seeing farmers try and add crops back into their rotations like wheat to help reduce the amount of soil that we are losing.

The best thing for a farmer to do is stop in and talk with NRCS or the local SWCD to see which programs might interest them or what we all really want which ones will help their land.

Boneyard Day Clean up that is this Saturday, they have over 600 people pre-registered.

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