Workshops held in this area during the next few weeks are good opportunities to learn more about taking care of soil health and productivity through a variety of management practices. Soil health and productivity are tied to soil structure and tilth and good soil biology.
Soil structure and tilth affects how easily roots can spread out in the soil. It affects the mix or air, water and soil particles that affect root systems health and the vitality of beneficial insects and micro-organisms in the soil. Soil drainage characteristics are an important factor in our areas.
We talk about using cover crops like tillage radishes, turnips, and deep rooted forage crops like alfalfa to breakup soil compaction and add organic matter to improve soil structure, soil health and drainage characteristics of the soil. There’s probably some truth to that. I’d suggest that we need to take a look first at what we’re doing to ruin soil structure and soil health. One of the first things to look at in this regard might be tillage practices. Excessive tillage breaks down soil structure and can cause a more rapid loss of organic matter in the soil.
The “Minnesota Conservation Tillage Conference,” that will be held Feb. 18 and 19, at the St. Cloud Holiday Inn, is a great opportunity in our area this year to learn about a wide range of conservation tillage practices. Farmers who use conservation tillage practices, along with research staff who conduct field trials, will talk about practices and experiences that contribute to wiser tillage strategies. Reducing tillage work also reduces fuel costs, labor and time in crop production systems. Call numbers listed below for more information, or do a website search for “Minnesota Conservation Tillage Conference 2014.” There is an early bird registration discount through Feb. 4. There is a one day or two day registration option.
Forage Crops like alfalfa, clover and grass hay have long been considered favorable to soil health and structure… along with providing a valuable feed resource. Alfalfa can also provide significant nitrogen to the crop grown following alfalfa in the rotation. The central Minnesota “Tour de Forage Workshop” held at the Royalton American Legion on Wednesday Feb. 5, staring at 10 a.m. is a good opportunity in our area. Speakers address practices and strategies to make the best of forage crops for feed, nutrient management, and soil benefits. Marv Hall, Extension forage specialist at Penn State will be the keynote speaker. There will be discussion about corn silage shredlage, nitrogen available following alfalfa, cover crop possibilities, forage ration strategies, making the best of yield and quality with grass and alfalfa.