By Randall Reeder, P.E., Extension Agricultural Engineer (retired)
The December Ohio No-Till Council conference in Plain City featured 14 speakers on diverse topics. It was a beautiful day, the sun shining, a rare occurrence in rainy 2018. The ground was reasonably dry so attendance was down because so many farmers were home harvesting corn and soybeans.
For those who missed it, here are a few highlights, provided by Vinayak Shedekar, an OSU Ag. Engineer working on water quality. Harold Watters, OSU Extension, discussed the new Tri-State Fertilizer recommendations, which include lower rates for Phosphorus. (Note: at the Conservation Tillage Conference a concurrent session on March 6 will go in depth on the revised recommendations.)
Jim Hoorman, Soil Health Specialist, NRCS, disclosed that for every ton of soybeans produced the average farm loses one to two tons of topsoil. Four principles of soil health are: minimize soil disturbance, maximize cover, maximize live roots, and maximize biodiversity.
Steve Arndt, member of the Ohio Legislature, discussed bills that address water quality, especially in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Both the House and Senate have proposed a $1 Billion Clean Water Ohio bond issue that would appropriate $100 million per year for 10 years, if approved by Ohio voters in an upcoming election. Half would be for the Lake Erie Watershed.
Trey Colley, who just completed his Master’s degree in Ag. Engineering, shared his research on deep placement of fertilizer. Injection can place fertilizer with less than 10% surface disturbance.
Ryan Moore of Beck’s Hybrids gave tips for managing cover crops. Start planning in the previous fall. Select appropriate herbicides. Treat seeding of cover crops like a cash crop, paying attention to down force, row cleaners, and closing wheels. For seed dropped on the soil surface, timing and weather are critical to success. Cover crops do miracles for soil health.
Josh Yoder, no-till farmer, showed his analysis of conservation benefits to farm finance and insurance. His complete article is online: edf.org/farm-finance. Soil health will be an important risk management tool we will use in the future. One key issue is that most benefits of improved soil health go to the landowner, but the costs rest with the tenant farmer. Long-term contracts are important so both can see value in the investments.
Fred Yoder (Josh’s father), said no-till farmers are helping make American farms “climate smart.” We are part of the solution for climate change with potential for carbon sequestration through improved soil health and resilience to extreme weather events. Three principles of Climate Smart Agriculture are: Productivity and profitability (all productivity is not equal); Adaptation and resilience; and Reduction of greenhouse gases.
The next Ohio No-till Council event will be a field day on April 3 at David Brant’s farm. On that day, we would welcome sunny weather with reasonably dry soil. In addition, we are preparing for the Conservation Tillage Conference. Here is the schedule. CTC will be at Ada, March 5-6. Four concurrent sessions on March 5 are: Cover Crops, No-till and Soil Health; Nutrient Management; Corn University; and Precision Ag & Digital Technologies. On March 6 the sessions are: Soybean School; Water Quality Research & BMPs; and half-day sessions on Cover Crops Issues and Benefits; New Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations; Soil Balancing (Calcium Magnesium ratio); and Identity Preserved Crops.
The schedule, registration details, and list of local accommodations are online at: ctc.osu.edu. (A new motel for this year is Howard Johnson, Lima, 419-222-0004.) Promotional flyers are available at County Extension offices.