No-Till Farming

No-Till Farming

Photo by Douglas Gayeton

No-Till Farming

Location: Cole's Farm, CO
Featuring: Cole Mertens, Dryland Farmer

In Eastern Colorado, dryland farmers are introducing new practices that preserve top soil, conserve soil moisture, and build soil health.

After each harvesst, crop residue is left on the ground. It protects the soil from the erosive forces of wind and rain, and shades it from the sun. This blanket of crop residue is important; it can take hundreds of years to create a single inch of top soil. The residue also provides a natural buffer against the impact of raindrops and increases the total amount of water stored within a plant’s root zone. And with a no till system, corn is even planted directly into the crop residue, which provides nutrients while keeping soil exposure to a minimum.

We don't really know in 50 years what this soil might be capable of,” Cole observes, “It's a long healing process. Generations of tilled wheat-fallow degraded the soil, but that’s being reversed as no-till practices revolutionize dryland agriculture. Cole’s family is on the forefront of this change and they’re excited to see how much the soil will improve over their lifetimes.

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