Downpours show the need for more conservation on the land
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 06/25/2012 1:56 PM
Heavy spring downpours have turned soil that worked up like sifted flour to over-baked crust.
Farmers are out reworking, replanting and rotary hoeing to improve their stand.
Others are taking a look at the damages done to soil.
Recent heavy rains have caused significant soil erosion, said Tom Coffman, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Rice County. Significant soil deposition has occurred in road ditches, streams, wetlands and lakes.
Dan Arndt, Steele County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, said some of the worst erosion he's ever seen has occurred along Highway 60 east and west of Faribault. In some cases, soil was two feet deep in ditches.
Keith Schrader, who farms near Nerstrand in Rice County, said he will be doing more conservation work after seeing the damage caused by the heavy rains. A couple rains did a lot of damage, particularly a two inch rain that fell in a half hour.
"It just came way too fast and the ground was just so mellow," Schrader said.
This spring, the ground worked up much looser than a lot of years, he said, quite a change from the fall when dry ground wore out tillage shanks and plow lays and left what he described as dirt boulders in the field.
Last spring, rains came almost continually, but little washing took place because the rain didn't come in big events. Because there haven't been heavy rain events, farmers may have forgotten the importance of leaving residue on soil and other conservation practices.
"I think we got a little complacent again," Schrader said. "You kind of forget about it."
This spring's downpours during the first week of May and again last week provided a reminder.
"I found some spots where I need to add more terraces," said Schrader, who farms around 120 or 130 terraces. Even fields that aren't highly erodible had erosion in the downpours.
He's signed up with the NRCS in Rice County to install more terraces in the fall. The terraces act as sediment control basins to catch runaway soil and slow soil water's velocity as it runs down a slope.
"I love 'em. They're more work to farm around, but I'll take a terrace over a waterway any day," Schrader said.
Technical assistance is available for practices that protect the soil, Arndt said. Conservation practices could include grassed waterways, water and sediment control basins, buffer strips or terraces.
Inquire at your county USDA Service Center for more information on conservation practices that may work on your land.