“Farmers are recognizing the value of having living roots in the soil year-round, not just during the five months or so that corn and soybeans are growing.”
Growers are also benefiting from the economics of using less machinery, making fewer trips across the field, and the environmental impact of less runoff and erosion, he said.
“Farmers want to leave their land better than they found it and are realizing that the most valuable resource on any farm is the soil,” Reeder said.
Participation in the CTC conference may help growers achieve similar results as Brandt, even in extreme weather conditions such as drought, said Jim Hoorman, an OSU Extension educator and an assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality issues.
Conservation tillage is any tillage and planting system that leaves at least 30 percent of the soil surface covered by residue after planting, according to the Conservation Technology Information Center in West Lafayette, Ind.
“In conventional tillage, the physical act of turning over the soil breaks open soil aggregates, releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” Hoorman said. “In addition, when we till the soil, the soil oxygen level increases and the soil microbes respond by consuming more organic matter, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
“This is significant considering that conventional tillage has reduced soil organic matter levels by as much as 50 to 60 percent.”
But using no-till and planting cover crops helps to keep the soil protected and forms macro-aggregates, which store a lot of the carbon in soil. Growing cover crops increases root mass in soils, which helps increase organic matter and carbon content in the soil. Hoorman said this results in cooler soils, increased water infiltration, more water storage capacity, decreased soil compaction and keeps more carbon stored in the soil.
“The key thing is carbon,” he said. “Nearly 60 to70 percent of soil carbon comes from roots, so using cover crops such as oilseed radish and cereal rye increases carbon sequestration by keeping the soil covered with live plants.
“The release of greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a problem, but if we keep more carbon in the soil it improves the environment, improves soil and may help lessen the impacts of extreme weather events.”
Hoorman, along with OSU Extension educators Rafiq Islam and Alan Sundermeier and ten other speakers, will present sessions on cover crops during the conference. In all, the two-day conference will feature 60 presenters. Information presented will include about 10 hours on nutrient management; eight hours on soil and water; “Corn University”; “Soybean School”; crop scouting; no-till; and seeding technology.