Soil Quality and Quantity
After three to four years of continuous no-till, the Davis Farm fields softened. There was no crusting and the plant residues were soft. When the soil is softer, there are more soil pores for water movement, increasing water infiltration.
“The soil does not leave the farm anymore,” says Rawlins, adding that it also does not crust over and it has fewer clay clods. Triple J Farm saw soil health noticeably improve in a few years. Dargan reports that his fields are smoother with less ponding, less dust, fewer rills and cooler soil temperature.
The Davises noticed fewer rills within the first three years. There are no field repairs to make and fewer drainage ditches to maintain. Equipment damage from field ruts and rills has been eliminated.
Reduced Flooding and Ponding
The increased soil softness reduces incidence of flooding and ponding, and increases water infiltration. Continuous no-till has practically eliminated runoff on the Davis Farm. On the Brock Farm, with conventional tillage, even a quarter-inch storm produced runoff. With no-till, a 6-inch rain produces very limited runoff. With more soil organisms and more healthy plant roots, there are more soil pores, especially macro-pores, through which water moves. When there is runoff, it is clear. Within the first three years, there were fewer rills in the field.
Poking into the soil of the Davis Farm will typically reveal at least one earthworm and usually reveals several. Paul Davis reports this was a significant change.
When the runoff is clear, the question is: Are the nutrients leaching into the groundwater? The Davis Farm, working with Virginia Tech and the local soil and water conservation district (SWCD), installed 12 lysimeters on the farm to measure nitrogen leaching through the soil to the groundwater. For four years, samples were taken after significant rainfall events. So far, no difference has been measured in nitrogen leaching between the tilled and the continuously no-tilled fields. That is, reducing runoff did not increase nitrogen leaching to the groundwater.
All producers interviewed have noticed a reduction of dust.
Table of Contents
- Author and Contributor List
- Chapter 1: Introduction to Conservation Tillage Systems
- Chapter 2: Conservation Tillage Systems: History, the Future and Benefits
- Chapter 3: Benefits of Increasing Soil Organic Matter
- Chapter 4: The Calendar: Management Tasks by Season
- Chapter 5: Cover Crop Management
- Chapter 6: In-Row Subsoiling to Disrupt Soil Compaction
- Chapter 7: Cash Crop Selection and Rotation
- Chapter 8: Sod, Grazing and Row-Crop Rotation: Enhancing Conservation Tillage
- Chapter 9: Planting in Cover Crop Residue
- Chapter 10: Soil Fertility Management
- Chapter 11: Weed Management and Herbicide Resistance
- Chapter 12: Plant-Parasitic Nematode Management
- Chapter 13: Insect Pest Management
- Chapter 14: Water Management
- Chapter 15: Conservation Economics: Budgeting, Cover Crops and Government Programs
- Chapter 16: Biofuel Feedstock Production: Crop Residues and Dedicated Bioenergy Crops
- Chapter 17: Tennessee Valley and Sandstone Plateau Region Case Studies
- Chapter 18: Southern Coastal Plain and Atlantic Coast Flatwoods Case Studies
- Cash Crop Selection and Crop Rotations
- Specific Management Considerations
- Case Study Farms
- Producer Experiences
- Transition to No-Till
- Changes in Natural Resources
- Changes in Agricultural Production
- Specialty Crops
- Why Change to No-Till?
- Supporting Technologies and Practices
- The Future
- Research Case Study
- Chapter 19: Alabama and Mississippi Blackland Prairie Case Studies
- Chapter 20: Southern Piedmont Case Studies