Farmers in Drought Areas Advised to Leave Unplanted Fields in a ‘Roughed Up’ State
Large portions of the state are currently classified by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the
Abandoned, bare fields are subject to severe wind erosion according to
Bickel says not only could vast amounts of precious top soil be lost, but air quality will be impacted as well, with blowing soil impairing vision on roads and highways. She advises farmers to take steps now to create surface roughing such as building furrows or ridges. These will absorb and deflect part of the wind energy and trap drifting soil particles.
“Vegetation, or vegetative residue, is the best protection for prevention of erosion from wind or rain when fields are left fallow,” she says. “After the last crop is harvested, it is best to save as much of the remaining crop residue, stubble, or ridges as possible. Even weeds can be sprayed in place and left as cover. Soil will be somewhat protected if there is at least 30 percent cover on the surface.”
Tillage with an implement, such as a lister, running perpendicular to wind direction, will form ridges and clods that will provide some protection for soil. This is most successful with soil that has some texture; sandy soils won’t hold the shape of clods and furrows as well as soils that contain at least some clay.
Additional steps farmers can take to prevent soil loss include compacting unpaved farm roads, avoiding plowing noxious weeds until adequate moisture is present to allow stable clods to form, establishing permanent vegetation on cropland being converted to other uses, and stabilizing equipment lots, corrals, and ditch banks not protected by windbreaks or cover vegetation.
“When leaving land fallow,” Bickel concludes, “the key to protecting soil resources is to provide as much cover and roughness as possible.”
For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/drought. Assistance also can be obtained from your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office, listed in the government section of the phone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture.
SOURCE USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service