As farmers harvest their cash crops, they may be thinking about the next planting season.
Thorough soil and residue management in the fall can help producers get a head start for the spring season, said Justin Render, a product specialist with Kinze Manufacturing.
“It helps set the stage for next year’s crop,” he told Farms.com. “The quicker you can break down corn residue, for example, it sets your soybeans or other crop up for success.”
Render provided four tips for producers to consider for soil and residue management this fall.
First, growers should minimize compaction.
Wet conditions increase the risk of compaction during harvest but practicing patience could go a long way to set fields up for the next crop.
“With wet fields, there’s a point where the compaction can go deeper into the soil,” Render said. “Waiting for soil to dry a little bit would be the best thing.”
Mother Nature doesn’t always provide warm and dry conditions, however, so producers who are in wet fields should try their best not to add any compaction.
“Farmers need to be sure they’re minimizing the amount of traffic in the fields so they’re not causing unnecessary compaction,” Render said.
Second, growers should ensure their equipment is spreading residue evenly.
Producers should watch closely when combining to determine if they need to make changes.
“Make sure your header is processing the residue and then, as it goes through the combine, make sure the chopper and spreading systems are working evenly,” Render said. “If you’ve got a 35-foot head, you want to make sure you’re spreading the residue across those 35 feet.
“Even distribution allows the residue to warm the soil at the same time and allows microbes to get in there and break down the residue in an even manner.”
Producers should also get out of the combine periodically to assess the residue distribution. This visual inspection can help farmers understand if their equipment is working properly, Render said.
Another tip is to manage crop residue with tillage.
“Making tillage part of the soil and residue management plan is important,” Render said. “Residue that’s not incorporated or put into contact with the soil in the fall will typically take longer to decompose.”
Render’s final tip for fall and soil residue management includes cover crops.
Planting a winter cover crop after fall tillage can help the soil absorb and store nutrients, he said.
“Some grasses hunt nutrients in the soil and immobilize them in the root zone, saving them to mineralize at a later time when crops can use them.”