By Kelsey Banks, Agronomist
Even though we still have fall harvest to get through, the season that not many like to talk about is coming soon – winter. Just like humans, the fields we grow crops in need to be prepared for winter too. Winter can be harsh on our soils. And it becomes important to maintain or increase soil health due to winter weather. But I have good news. Below there are a few issues with tactics growers can use to help avoid the soil issues of winter.
Soil erosion in the winter has been an issue for many growers. To avoid soil erosion, it may be of value to discuss the proper cover crop that will work for your crop you plan to grow next year, increase your soil health, and most of all, protect your valuable soil. There are many cover crop mixes that are available. Please speak with your local agronomist about what cover crop mix aligns with your goals and timing of pre-cover crop harvest to plant the cover crops that work for you and your business.
Crop planning is something that does not happen for some farm businesses. Even if the farm is small, crop planning should be done before the winter. The reason for this is two things – you can pre-book crop protection products and seed before the discount deadlines end with your agriculture retail and to pre-plan what you need to do to grow a high yielding, great quality crop the following year. Crop planning does not have to be difficult. If you and your agronomist can discuss what you need or want to grow the next year, you can work toward putting together your ‘what crop protection products and seed do I need’ list and your ‘what is my 4R (right place, right time, right source, right rate) plan for my fertilizer list. This will better help plan how to manage the soil over the winter and help grow a great crop the following year.
Tilling the fields post-harvest has been done for many years. In some situations, tilling is okay depending on what is the challenge and is the only way to fix it is to till or if the grower is working toward no tilling their soil. In a heavy clay loam soil that does not dry well in the spring for example, it may require a form of tillage post-harvest. However, it is important to work with an agronomist to discuss whether tilling is a solution that works for the grower and the farm business.
Overall, there are other tactics and ways to overcome the winter blues that soils may endure resulting in a tough crop the following year. These depend on your farm, it’s cropping and soil management history, and your crop plan. If you are interested in discussing these tactics or exploring options for your farm, please contact your local agronomist.