By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
The end of the cropping year is approaching. Here are some soil management tips for late summer and early fall from Adam Hayes, Soil Management Specialist, OMAFRA.
Scout fields for soil erosion.
The heavy downpours or significant rainfall on already saturated soils this year caused soil to move.
Before pulling the combine into the field this fall, check fields and along ditches for small gullies and washouts. Be on the lookout for tile problems.
Assess the situation for causes of soil erosion to determine if management changes (such as more residue cover) are required, or if an erosion control structure is needed.
Be aware of soil compaction problems.
Rainfall events during cereal harvest this summer often meant that the combine and grain buggies were traveling on the field in less than ideal conditions.
This may have lead to rutting and compacted areas in the field.
Assess the compaction in these areas and consider management options.
Consider options for preventing soil compaction.
Many soils may be wetter going into the fall this year, so more prone to soil compaction.
Refer to the soil management www.omafra/crops for more information on the detection and prevention of soil compaction.
Don’t use deep tillage if you don’t have a problem.
If soil compaction has been confirmed and not too deep, deep tillage may be able to correct it.
This year, soils may be too wet for deep tillage to be effective. Check soil moisture to the depth of tillage to determine if it is dry enough to shatter.
Research has shown that if there is no compaction, deep tillage will not increase yields.
Manage the soil to increase or maintain organic matter levels.
Organic matter is the most important part of the soil.
Organic matter plays an important role in soil structure, nutrient cycling and availability, water holding capacity, and drainage. All of these can impact yield.
Add organic matter through the addition of manure, biosolids, composts, crop rotation, and cover crops.
Minimize organic matter loss.
Avoid excessive tillage of cereal stubble.
If you plan to no-till into wheat residue, cutting the straw short and removing it will improve results.
Growing cereals in the rotation improves soil structure and adds much needed soil organic matter. Manage the residue to help prevent erosion, and also so the soil will dry and warm up in the spring without losing much organic matter or soil structure.
Disking or strip tillage are good compromise options.
Moldboard plowing or chisel plowing and the associated secondary tillage can undo a lot of the good from the cereal crop. Excessive tillage of any kind depletes organic matter and leaves the soil exposed and prone to soil erosion.
On the other end of the spectrum, some growers have had success with only coulter tillage.