Crop residue management is one way to improve soil health. Lots of residue means lots of organic matter to return to the soil, cycling macronutrients – like phosphorus and potassium – and micronutrients and reducing the potential for soil erosion.
Ian McDonald, crop innovation specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), recently published an article on the pros and cons to fall tillage for residue management and possible alternatives. Some key take-aways include:
- Consider residue management during harvest: this will reduce issues like matting, which can impact seeding effectiveness and germination, among other factors.
- Traditional residue management involves aggressive tillage to break down residue, leaving the soil bare over the winter. This increases the risk of erosion by wind and rainfall.
- Residues left on the soil until the springtime prevents the sun drying out and warming out the soil, which can delay seeding.
- Some farmers are exploring residue management without tillage.