Canola School: Speed plays a role in tillage erosion

Did you know tillage erosion is the most significant erosive effect that’s seen on the Canadian prairies?

Marla Riekman, soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, says that often the focus is around wind and water erosion when really, it should be tillage erosion. However, it’s not just how much you are tilling your land — but also how fast.

“Speed is a big factor, and something that people don’t always think about,” she explains. “When you start picking up speed, soil actually flies further, or with more variability. So uphill, or downhill, you get more variability with more speed. So when we see this movement to high-speed discs or shallow tillage, we think of it more as conservation tillage because it’s not going as deep. But we’re moving with such great speeds that it can cause a lot of variability with soil movement, and quite often soil moves a lot further than we think it’s going to.”

Riekman says this has become a bigger issue in the typical no-till areas where transitions have occurred to use this residue-management conservation till method. Each area is different, so it’s essential to know your region, land, and farm needs.

“I often will recommend going to reduced, or no-tillage —  it’s kind of where I come from, I want to see more conservation, or basically seeing tillage taken out of the equation. But not everybody has the ability to do that. It depends on what they have got for (implements).”

She goes on to say they’re starting to see people move to high-speed shallow discing, and redoing the acre every year.

“We’re starting to see problems with soil movement, higher compaction —  we’re getting a new compaction layer starting around two inches — because it’s the same implement on every acre, every year,” Riekman explains.

“So, I do like to see a bit of varying with tillage implements, and really thinking about what residue you are trying to manage, and where that tillage equipment should fit into that general crop system and the general crop rotation.”

To learn more, check out the conversation between RealAgriculture prairie field editor, Kara Oosterhuis and Marla Riekman of Manitoba Agriculture, filmed at canolaPALOOZA19, below: