This week I had the chance to look at some fields with Carl Coleman of Dillon County. He showed me some fields where a summer cover crop was planted this past season after the corn was harvested. The cover crop was killed by cold weather and rolled to allow wheat to be planted.
Here we see wheat in the tillering stage planted into the residue from the cover crop. The residue we are looking at is from a mixed planting of sorghum-sudangrass, buckwheat, and sunn hemp. No herbicides have been applied in this field this season. Instead the residue is doing a tremendous job suppressing weeds.
This field hasn’t been tilled in any way in four years. This has allowed some macrofauna to inhabit the soil and has allowed some structure to return. Earthworms, like in the photo above, are rarely found in conventionally tilled soil.
Look at the aggregates of soil that came loose when we dug up a shovel full of soil.
Here is a look at what the residue looks like before it is rolled down. It is two to three feet high in many places and was even taller before the cold killed it. The green on the left is some wheat that was planted into disked soil. You can see how much soil is exposed as compared to the area on the right.