By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Soil conservation and weed control – Part III
Dr. Victor Martin

This past week was more of the same. Everyone is aware of the flooding and the apparent tornado in the Claflin area. Unfortunately, the outlook for June is for above normal precipitation and normal to below normal temperatures.  The temperature outlook is good for finishing the 2019 wheat crop but trouble for corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum. There is corn in the ground, especially below the river and where there wasn’t standing water, it should be okay. If producers could plant this week, there is a chance for a decent crop as long as the weather cooperates, especially an early frost or excessive heat during pollination. It would be wise if possible to switch to a shorter season. However, the prudent move is probably to move onto soybeans or grain sorghum if possible. As of now soybean and grain, sorghum planting isn’t in jeopardy but producers need dry weather now. Again, if this persists, it would be wise to plant an earlier maturing variety/hybrid. With the cool weather, it wouldn’t have made sense to plant cotton before now anyway. As strange as it seems, today let’s tackle what to do when dealing with wind erosion. How do we prevent it?

• The first and most obvious way to prevent it is moisture. Wet soil doesn’t blow. It’s really that simple. If you have a dry surface that is starting to blow and you have subsurface moisture, tillage to bring up moisture helps.

• Residue and a crop canopy also serve to prevent soil from moving. Anything breaking the wind and/or keeping it from the soil surface. This is where strip tillage and no-tillage help. Roughness of any kind such as stubble mulch tillage helps as the roughness breaks up the wind.

• Planting across rather than with the general wind direction also helps break the wind. Simply, whenever possible, avoid planting north-south. The direction doesn’t have to be perfectly east-west but since the winds normally causing the most erosion are south/southwest and north/northwest, an approximately east-west planting works well.

• For large fields, say a quarter section or more, especially on sandier ground, dividing the field into smaller sections and diversifying crops. This decreases the uninterrupted run length the wind has to break loose soil particle. Say, if practical dividing a large field up into a wheat-soybean-corn rotation. And leave as much residue on the field as possible.

• Finally, the one most are familiar with – shelterbelts. The east-west lines of trees break the wind. A good shelterbelt can prevent the wind from returning to its original velocity for up to ten times its height. An average shelterbelt can do this from three to five times its height. The shelterbelt need not be solid of planted with evergreens to be effective. Sadly, many of the original shelterbelts are reaching the ends of the effective lives, many need restored, and many have been torn out. They work but they must be maintained.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.