Liz Morrison

Upstream-Downstream Drainage Issues

There’s an old adage in drainage lore: Whiskey’s for drinkin’; water’s for fightin’! Upstream and downstream farmers along 100-year-old County Ditch 57 in Blue Earth County, in heavily tiled south-central Minnesota, started out at loggerheads over ditch improvements. But they ended up working together to improve both drainage capacity and water quality – thanks to innovative drainage methods and a determined fundraising effort by local leaders.

Drainage Solutions: Surface Tile Intakes

Gary and Steve Glazik were sick of slogging through standing water in their farm fields to unclog surface tile inlets. Their Paxton, Ill., fields are pocked with low spots where water ponds, and their perforated risers were forever plugging up with residue. “We’d have to go out in hip boots and clean them out,” Gary says.

Better Ways to Drain | Innovations in Surface Tile Intakes Aim to Improve Convenience, Water Quality

Gary and Steve Glazik were sick of slogging through standing water in their farm fields to unclog surface tile inlets. Their Paxton, Ill., fields are pocked with low spots where water ponds, and their perforated risers were forever plugging up with residue. “We’d have to go out in hip boots and clean them out,” Gary says.

Vertical Tillage Tips 1

No two shallow vertical tillage tools are the same, says Curt Weisenbeck, Agronomic Consulting, Durand, Wis. “Each tool behaves differently in different soils and terrain.” For example, independently mounted blades are better for rocky fields or irregular topography. Different types of blades – straight, concave, smooth or fluted – determine how much soil is disturbed.

Vertical Tillage Not a Yield Driver 3

Do improved planting conditions following shallow vertical tillage result in higher crop yields? “Fine-textured soils and early planting are the two conditions where shallow vertical tillage may provide a yield benefit, compared to no-till,” says Mike Staton, Michigan State University Extension soybean agronomist,” in reference to studies from Michigan, Indiana and Canada.

Vertical Tillage Should Be Conservative, Shallow

How much soil is disturbed by shallow vertical tillage? The answer depends on the tool, the soil and the tillage depth, says Kevan Klingberg, a University of Wisconsin Extension outreach specialist. Many farmers value these implements to size residue, condition the seedbed and incorporate nutrients, he says.

Soil Warmer | Shallow Vertical Tillage Aids Residue Management, Seedbed Prep

Cold spring soils are sparking a hot new form of tillage. Shallow vertical tillage tools slice crop residue and loosen the top layer of soil while leaving most of the residue on the surface to protect soil from erosion. The practice speeds up residue breakdown and improves spring planting conditions – without sacrificing the soil conservation benefits of high residue cover.

Relearn Residuals | Get the Most from Soil-Applied Herbicides 1

In 2012, Greg Kerber attacked the weeds in his no-till soybean fields with six herbicide modes of action – including three effective pre-emergence herbicides. An early April burndown included full rates of 2, 4-D and glyphosate plus soil-residual products Prowl and Sonic, followed by an early postemergence application of Liberty. Sites of action: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 14.

Slow Your Soil | Southwest Iowa Growers Fight to Safeguard Soil Amid Weather Extremes 4

Extreme weather finds even longtime no-tillers fighting washouts and erosion. Bill and Babetta Lucke of Persia, Iowa, 12-year no-till veterans, have a stellar soil-saving system, including terraced slopes and miles of grass waterways. “These things help a lot,” Bill says, but with torrential rains and the 2012 drought, “we still lose some soil.” Buffeted by weather extremes like so many Corn Belt farms, their 1,000 acres lie in the fertile loess hills of southwest Iowa.

Stop Gully Erosion | Improve Crop Productivity with Control Basins Instead of Grass Waterways

Year after year, Donnelly, Minn., farmer Dave Liebl would close the gully that formed in one of his fields, only to have it reopen. “I’d dig it, and it would look smooth. Then after a hard rain, there’d be another gully in the same place.” The ditch below the field had silt several feet deep.

Irrigator Innovator | Young Nebraska Farmer Pushes Variable-Rate Irrigation Forward 6

A young farmer from eastern Nebraska is pushing irrigation management to a new level of precision. Nick Emanuel, founder and president of CropMetrics, is a leader in variable rate irrigation management. The innovations he developed on his farm are helping growers match water application rates to soil type, conserving water and reducing yield variability. “He’s a small-town Nebraska boy who is making a global impact on water management,” says Dave Varner, a University of Nebraska Extension scientist in southeast Nebraska.

Prescribe Your Water | Variable-Rate Irrigation Applies Rates by Soil Type, Topography, Yield goals 6

Tim Schmeeckle is learning to grow corn with less water. Precision-irrigation management is helping him and other farmers apply the right amount of water on every part of the field. Variable-rate irrigation (VRI) adjusts water application depth for differences in soil water-holding capacity, topography and yield potential.

Cash Rent on the Auction Block | Rent Auctions Give More Farmers a Shot at Renting Land, But Make Transaction Details Public 1

Cash rent went on the auction block in several areas around the Midwest last fall and winter. In Iowa, 3,300 acres of cropland brought rent bids ranging from $325/acre to $520/acre, stunning some market watchers. In southern Minnesota, several cash rent auctions last fall brought over $400/acre. In eastern South Dakota, bids at rent auctions in September and October reached $300/acre or more.

Find Your Resistant Weeds | Learn Early Warning Signs of Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds 2

One reason glyphosate-resistant weeds are multiplying is lack of early detection. Because glyphosate has been so effective, busy farmers often skimp on scouting after spraying, says Jeff Stachler, Extension weed scientist at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota. As a consequence, “we’re not detecting weed changes from year to year.”

Buffer Booster | Cut Nitrates by Routing Tile Water Through Grass Buffer 5

Directing tile water through a grass buffer can significantly improve drainage water quality. This new conservation drainage practice, called a “saturated buffer,” removes nitrates from subsurface drainage water at low cost – without affecting farm field drainage.

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