Since the topography and soils are highly variable across the Blackland Prairie region, the conservation practices used by individual farms vary. Farmers select conservation practices that are profitable and sustainable, and that satisfy crop needs. Most often these practices will involve a one-pass fall tillage with or without a cover crop; spring planting no-till on old raised stale seedbeds; a precision-grade grass waterway; and pipe outlet terraces to control concentrated water flow. Wheat and rye are the cover crops used most often. These case studies illustrate that Blackland farmers recognize the challenges of farming these soils. They are adopting reduced tillage and other conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and improve potential yield and profitability. The four case studies provide insight into successful operations where some type of conservation tillage has been valuable on Blackland Prairie soils.
The farmer interviews were conducted between January and October of 2009. Each farmer was asked the same eight questions:
- What do you consider to be the biggest challenges in farming Blackland Prairie soils?
- What conservation tillage techniques work best for you?
- What are the biggest problems that you have encountered with conservation tillage techniques on Blackland Prairie soils?
- What are the biggest advantages, if any, of conservation tillage on these soils?
- What are the biggest problems with conventional tillage (e.g., moldboard plowing, disking, chiseling, etc.)?
- What are the advantages of conventional tillage?
- Do you use subsoiling under the row? Why or why not?
- Do you have any other comments or ideas about conservation tillage on Blackland Prairie soils, or ideas for future research?