The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is once again encouraging Illinois farmers to “keep the stubble” on their harvested crop fields and improve soil health during No-Till November.
First launched in 2017, the NRCS project is mirrored after the national cancer awareness No Shave November campaign that encourages people not to shave during the entire month. The NRCS campaign encourages farmers to keep tillage equipment in their machine sheds this fall and keep the crop stubble on their fields. In the past two years, the campaign has reached more than 1 million people.
“No-till farming is a cornerstone soil health conservation practice, which also promotes water quality while saving farmers time and money,” said Illinois NRCS State Conservationist Ivan Dozier. “The most basic principle of soil health is ‘do not disturb.’ This campaign is a fun way to remind farmers about the important relationship between tillage and soil health.”
Improving soil health increases soil biological activity, which provides erosion control, nutrient benefits, and can simulate non-destructive and natural underground tillage.
“No-till is a different management tool because timeliness is very important for planting and weed control. I really like it, though. I like knowing that there is biological activity going on below the ground. You dig down six inches and the earthworms are there. The worms are my tillage tool,” said Illinois no-till farmer and president of the Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Steve Stierwalt, of Sadorus.
NRCS’ Illinois State Soil Scientist Ron Collman enjoys the campaign as a way to celebrate and prioritize soil resources.
“Earthworms can be an incredible part of ag operations. But they need to be fed. And fed well. Bare and exposed soil without residue and vegetation doesn’t provide what earthworms need. Stop the fall tillage and feed the earthworms. Let them work the soil,” Collman explains.
For more information about soil health and the No-Till November campaign, visit www.il.nrcs.usda.gov . You can also learn more on NRCS’ Soil Health webpage.