In a four-year experiment in Ohio, tillage played a deciding role in whether a corn field was able to save—or simply wasted—precious rainfall. The experiment compared conventional tillage and no-till, and showed that runoff averaged 7 inches of water per year in the conventionally-tilled system, and averaged less than 0.1 inch in the no-till system.
For many farmers and ranchers, rainfall has never seemed more precious: The historic drought this summer withered crops and rangeland around the country. While we can’t control the climate, we can prepare our soils and crops to better withstand the devastating effects of drought, flood, and pest and disease outbreaks when they do happen.
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
While you cannot always avert disaster, sustainable soil management practices—such as reducing tillage, planting cover crops, improving crop rotations, and adding organic matter—promote healthy soils and more resilient crops when times turn bad. And when times are good, sustainable soil management continues to reap benefits.
For example, yields of crops grown in rotation