Hello ReaderThe big push to get harvest finished has now been replaced with the big push to get fall work done before the snow flies. Most of us feel like we’ve been on a dead run since April, and it’s the truth in many cases. The forecast is calling for some snow next week and a dive in temperatures. That may bring the hurried pace to a standstill.
This week we’ll take a look at how to improve drainage in those pesky areas that flood each year. Next, I’ll show you the dramatic change in our soil structure after five years of CTF. We’ll also take a peek at the best mobile phone packages in Canada and then finish with reader comments on land values and rental returns.
Have a great week.
Managing drainage in wet areasThe last number of years I’ve seen a trend towards more cultivation and disking of low spots to improve drainage, manage weeds and fix ruts. I understand managing weeds and fixing ruts to prepare a seedbed is important but cultivating areas to improve drainage does the exact opposite of what’s intended. It’s true. If you’re aiming for improved drainage in low areas, put the double disk away and grab some different iron. Hear me out.
If you look in the bottom photo, you’ll see two large pails of water. The left side has a section of soil taken from our field that has been in no-till for 10 years. Notice how clear the water is, inspite of having soil dropped into it. Now look at the jar on the right. Notice how cloudy the water is? It holds soil that has been worked seasonally with sweeps and spikes beside my mother-in-law’s Saskatoon berry bushes.
The small amount of tillage this soil receives each year has destroyed the soil structure. When it rains, fine soil particles fall into suspension and find their way into every pore space. The soil dries out after the first rain and then seals off completely like a solid brick. Every rain afterward no longer drains and water begins to pond on the surface. Even if you get a crop established, it gets drowned out after a few rains. At the end of the year, all that remains is weeds, ruts and wet soil underneath. So, we cultivate once again to dry out the soil and the cycle of soil destruction continues.
If you want these areas to drain, put away the offset disks and cultivators and grab, rent or buy a narrow deep ripper. You would be amazed at how well one deep ripping down to 12 or 15 inches can help improve the drainage in areas that don’t normally drain well or haven’t in years. I've seen this on several fields that once had many pot holes reduced to just a few after deep ripping. A few years ago, it was all the rage to deep rip the entire field, which quickly faded away. I believe there is room for some strategic deep ripping to improve drainage in certain areas within our fields.
Once you get the drainage corrected, you’ll find better crop establishment, fewer weed problems and eventually no ruts to fix. Food for thought. SL
CTF makes big changes in soil structureWe all know that healthy soil structure is essential for optimal crop growth. Good soil structure provides aeration for soil biology to thrive, improves drainage, nutrient holding capacity, nutrient cycling and helps build a solid foundation for above ground biomass. The limited research that is published shows a strong correlation between yield and good soil structure. After five years of CTF, the improvement in soil structure (65% clay soils with 25% Mg) has been nothing short of incredible.
The photo above shows the soil structure of a field that has been in CTF since 2010. Notice the granular soil structure all the way through the soil profile. The photo on the bottom was taken 50 feet away on the headland where we do the majority of our turning and random traffic. Notice the soil has broken into two pieces and has very little soil structure. This year the headlands were the first to turn yellow after heavy rains and were the lowest yielding areas of our field by 15-20%!
In the last five years we’ve been able to triple and quadruple water infiltration rates compared to our random traffic checks. For example, we can drain 3-inches of water in under 90 seconds, even at field capacity. Just this fall we had 11-inches of rain the 40 days leading up to harvest. All that rain is now sitting locked and loaded at depth for us to tap into next year.
We know that proper soil structure plays is a very important role in our farming system. We can see those benefits from the yield gains we’ve made from zero-till. Removing tillage allowed soils to repair themselves and over time, improve soil structure. It all starts with structure. Now, add CTF to a no-till system and you will take soil health to another level. SL
For more on CTF go \here//
The best mobile phone packages in CanadaI know this is way beyond agronomy but I thought I would pass along an article outlining the top mobile phone packages in Canada. It’s one of those variable costs that seem to add up to thousands of dollars a year. For most farms that I know, they are running between 4 to 8 cell phones so the costs do add up. So, if you’re a reader from another country you may be happy at how much we’re paying or angry for how little we’re paying. Either way, here's an easy-to-read summary on the best mobile phone packages in Canada. (I made the switch from Telus Mobility to Koodo almost two years ago and the savings are in the thousands.)
Click \ here // for the article link.
Reader Comments: Are land costs high?Last week I ran a comparison of land cost and rental rates from five different countries to see who was generating the highest return on land or paying the highest cost per land value. I had a few more people chime in on Twitter and reply to the newsletter with their own land costs and rental rates. Thank you to those who shared; here are your replies:
North Island, New Zealand: 4.0%
Saskatchewan, Canada: $60 ac rent / $1,500 ac = 4.0%
South Australia: $120 ac rent / $3,000 ac = 4.0%
Victoria, Australia: $30 ac rent / $800 ac = 3.75%
South Australia: 3-3.7%
Alberta, Canada: $85 ac rent / $2,500 = 3.4%
Saskatchewan, Canada: 3.4%
England: $200 ac rent / $12,000 ac land = 1.7%