When we use no-till, we must use herbicides to control weeds in our crops. Strategic use of herbicides in conjunction with no-till will allow us to write a new chapter in the history of agriculture – a chapter where agriculture does not destroy the soil resource, but instead improves it, as the need for steady grain supply continues to rise around the world. Herbicides have made no-till crop production possible, and we can now grow great crops without leaving the soil prone to erosion, structural degradation and depleted fertility.
A new practice we’ve developed is to rebuild ridges after oat harvest while seeding cover crops in the furrows. Oat kernels that the combine has missed are thus mixed with straw residues and topsoil to stimulate a fast-growing cover crop. Meanwhile, the seed boxes that we’ve mounted above the tool bar sprinkle other seeds (ie. red clover, oilseed radish & annual ryegrass) in the furrows to loosen compaction and prevent soil erosion where surface water will flow. A weblink to a video clip from the tractor cab is available at the end of this presentation.
The resulting cover crop provides soil protection and fodder for soil organisms; all part of a set-up for another successful bean crop direct-seeded on ridges where bean roots interact with a vibrant soil food web in a raised seedbed with excellent drainage, and plant residues are decomposing to release nutrients into the soil solution all season long.
Soil ProtectionA Vibrant Soil Food Web
After another crop of azuki beans (or soybeans, depending upon price ratios), we direct-seed barley into bean residues just as we do with oats. A pre-harvest application of glyphosate is essential when weed escapes are present. Our Spra-Coupe is outfitted with a home-made tarp so that it sneaks through the mature crop with minimal damage.