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Cover Crops a Hot Topic at National No-Till Conference

Hoosier Ag Today by: Cayla McLeland

Barry Fisher – No-Till Conference

Indiana experienced wet conditions in 2015. How does that moisture impact farmers moving forward? Barry Fisher - NRCS

Fields that experienced significant rain events last growing season are susceptible to problems moving forward. HAT caught up with Barry Fisher, Regional Soil Health Team Leader with NRCS, at this week’s National No-Till Conference in downtown Indianapolis. He says farmers with no management strategy are especially vulnerable to a downward spiral in soil health.

“We’ve lost the life of the soil, we’ve lost a lot of the soil’s natural protein and nutrients that help keep that soil aggregated and aerated and functioning. And so, if we didn’t get something growing on that field as soon as we possibly could to store some of that biological activity, we’ll come in to next spring with an even further degraded condition that’s not going to be able to manage the water, manage the nutrients, supply the resources that the next crop needs.”

Fisher says they prefer the mantra ‘when in doubt, plant, now plow.’ Plant, as in, cover crops.

“Get a living root back in the soil to re-aggregate the soil. We can fix that so much better with biology then we can with just tillage.”

He adds tillage can be a vicious cycle for farmers.

“We’ve tilled it up, we’ve broken down even more soil aggregates. So the next time the rains come, it’s less resilient. So now what do we have to do to fix that? Till it some more.”

Fisher says NRCS encourages farmers to think about how nature would fix their problems in the soil.

“Growing weeds, growing plants, growing things. That’s how nature fixes itself. We can take that information and knowledge and design it to actually use biology and use plants to fix some of our situations with degraded soil.”

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