From the Fields…
By Jim Morrison
Extension Educator, Crop Systems
University of Illinois Rockford Extension Center
Soil is one of our most precious natural resources. The potential for erosion of a specific soil type largely depends upon the degree of slope, the crops grown, and the number and types of tillage operations. Farmers utilize several techniques to reduce soil erosion, including crop residue management, crop rotation, contour tillage, grass waterways, terraces, and conservation structures.
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) reported in their December 2000-January 2001 newsletter that nearly 51 million acres of US cropland were planted using no-till systems in 2000. This is up from less than 17 million acres in 1990.
The CTIC newsletter indicated that the Midwest showed the largest increase in no-till acres in 2000. Most of the increase occurred in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio.
The percent of total corn acres grown via no-till in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio was 17, 21, 18, and 24, respectively. The comparable figure for no-till soybean, as a percent of total soybean acres, in these same states was 43, 60, 27 and 60. In these four states, total no-till soybean acres increased by 1.8 million acres in the past two years.
According to the newsletter, no-till usage nationwide has increased nearly 7 percent in the last two years to 17.5 percent of the 290 million acres of annually planted cropland. Other conservation tillage system usage figures are that nearly 18 percent of acres use mulch-till, and one percent use ridge-till.
The CTIC newsletter also commented that Illinois and Iowa lead the way with conservation buffers. Illinois had more than 185,000 acres of buffers as of September 2000, and Iowa had nearly 209,000 acres. These numbers reflect the enhanced continuous Conservation Reserve Program.
Conservation buffers are designed to address water quality concerns. In addition, they provide wildlife habitat and have an aesthetic value. Some of the different types of conservation buffers include: riparian buffers, grass filter strips, grassed waterways, shelterbelts, contour grass strips, and wellhead protection areas.
Further information on tillage systems and buffers is available at Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices.