OPINION: To till or not to till, that is the question

It is clear that conserving soil, then, is a better route than allowing degradation and then trying to rebuild replacement soil.

I remember 50 years ago reading about how the U.S. government accounting office audited top soil loss on an annual basis.

It was disturbing to read about how the loss to soil erosion on farmland was close to four tons per acre per year. That adds up fast.

In the state of Tennessee this rate was 3.6 tons per acre in 2003, but only 2.6 tons for the U.S. as a whole, down somewhat from 50 years ago.

For Tennessee then it would take 46 years to lose one inch of topsoil down from one inch in 18 years, however, it takes 200 to 10,000 years to form that one inch of soil.

It is clear that conserving soil, then, is a better route than allowing degradation and then trying to rebuild replacement soil.

The rate of soil loss in the interior of BC is very low mainly because we don’t “farm” or cultivate the soil as frequently as the cropping areas: vegetables and grains for instance.

Much of our farmland is in perennial crops like hay and pasture where we don’t cultivate frequently.

Read more: When the smoke clears: life after the big one

In Canada the cost of soil degradation was last assessed in 1983.

Why am I dwelling on this? It is because just leaving soil with something growing on it may not be improving the health of that soil.

So we want to improve the productivity and sustainability of what has been called the foundation of civilization: SOIL.

The slowing down of soil erosion had been accomplished by the reduction of tilling (plowing, disking, harrowing, rotovating, subsoiling etc.) the soil.

Over half of the crops that are planted are done so using no-till or minimum till equipment. Seeds are sown directly into the remnants of the last crop.

However, most often, to reduce competition from weeds, spraying something to kill the competition to the desired crop is a common practice. Roundup is the product of choice for this purpose.

Organic producers not going to put herbicides on their crops because products like Glyphosate or Roundup have a bad reputation and are not approved substances for organic farming.

Some local producers, I for one, would like to try some of the new technology which is minimum tillage where the competition is reduced by grazing cattle to weaken the existing less desirable plants.

These seeders actually cultivate a narrow band of the sod say one and a half inches wide and prepare a seedbed for new seeds. I have written about many of the available cover crop plants like alfalfa or clover or radishes or turnips etc., etc. where one plants varieties that enhance certain aspects of the soil where weakness exist.

We know that recent assessments of these “conservation tillage” strategies (BC Climate Action. Initiative website: Farm practices-Conservation Tillage) suggest we should get on with trying some of newer technologies.

Are you a rancher/ farmer and interested? Be in touch if you are. My phone number is 250-243-2243. E-mail: davidzirnhelt@hotmail.com.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Falcons cross-country runners get zone, provincial experience

The Lake City Falcons cross-country running was busy getting its paces in this fall

Williams Lake Bantam Female T-wolves claw to silver at Kamloops rep tourney

Timberwolves win silver at Kamloops Bantam Female Rep Tournament

Asbestos: What to know before renovating your home

Asbestos is an odourless, colourless, naturally occurring mineral

Wolverines take championship at Merritt co-ed hockey tournament

The Williams Lake Wolverines skated to a first-place result at the Last Minute Co-Ed Tournament

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read