Conserving soil is one of the most important tasks of our time. In Iowa alone, approximately 5 tons of soil is lost per acre each year. This equates to losing an inch of soil in just 15-20 years—when it takes the earth 500-1000 years to replenish that inch. Fortunately, there are many ways to farm responsibly and protect our rich soil for generations to come.
Different types of tillage can conserve soil, while also improving the quality of the soil over time. No-till management of the land leaves the previous crops’ residue in place to protect the soil, and over time improves soil structure, organic matter content, and water infiltration. Strip-tillage disturbs only a narrow portion of the soil when planting, allowing for rapid seed germination in moist soils, while leaving the remainder of the field covered with residue. In addition to protecting soil, these practices also reduce the amount of time and fuel needed to prepare a field for planting.
The use of cover crops, terraces, grassed waterways, contour cropping and buffer strips are additional practices that can reduce erosion and prevent soil transport from the field to local creeks, streams, and rivers. With these conservation practices and more, we can protect our soil for the next generation and beyond.
Video - Converting your Planter for No-Till Operation (Iowa Learning Farms)
Transition to No-Till (Iowa Learning Farms)
Considerations in Selecting No-Till (Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)
Video - Adding a Cover Crop to a Corn-Soybean System (Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa)
Video - From Gully to Grass – Implementing Grassed Waterways (Iowa Learning Farms)
Buffer Strips and their Benefits
Conservation Buffers and Water Quality (Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)
Science-based Trials of Row Crops Integrated with Prairies (Iowa State University)