Keep the Stubble

By Lindsey Foss

During a special month-long campaign called “No Tillage November,” the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners encourage Iowa farmers to keep tillage equipment parked in their machine sheds this fall.

The project is mirrored after “No Shave November,” which encourages people to retire their razors for the month to spark conversation and raise awareness of men’s cancers. In a similar vein, the NRCS campaign encourages farmers to “keep the stubble” on their harvested crop fields to increase biological activity in the soil and boost underground nutrients. 

“Think of tillage like an earthquake — it’s a disruption to the soil that shatters the complex of biological communities beneath the surface,” said Tom Oswald, a corn and soybean farmer from Cleghorn, Iowa. “This disruption can increase erosion and the potential for nutrients to leak out of sync with the crop needs.”

Not only does reduced tillage protect Iowa’s rich soils (we’re home to 10 percent of the world’s best farm ground), it also provides wildlife habitat and saves farmers time and money. For all these reasons, the NRCS encourages the ag community to hang a “do not disturb” sign on their fields this fall. Follow along with #KeepTheStubble and #DoNotDisturb on Twitter to see how farmers are practicing conservation throughout the month. 

Photo: Kellie Blair, a Dayton area farmer, examines cover crop vegetation in a no-till field. The Blairs and many other farmers have adopted no-till practices and have planted cover crops to keep soil and nutrients in place.