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No-till farming system in Brookings, Co., SD | by USDA NRCS South Dakota
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No-till farming system in Brookings, Co., SD

Caption: Farmers like Erik Schlimmer, Volga, SD, are using conservation farming technologies, like a no-till cropping system, to improve his soil’s health which also increases productivity and function of soil. Improving soil health naturally, by not using tillage, can protect our working lands from erosion and ensure that our food-producing acres stay fertile and productive. Photo: June 2013 Eric Barsness, USDA NRCS South Dakota.


Natural Resources

Conservation Service

Federal Building, 200 Fourth Street SW

Huron, SD 57350-2475


Colette Kessler, Public Affairs Specialist

(605) 224-2476, Ext 5




NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, Huron, SD, April 15, 2014–“It’s tough to be patient when spring finally comes and farmers have short windows for getting their crops in the soil,” says Soil Quality Specialist Jeff Hemenway, Huron, SD. Specialists with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are advising farmers to scout fields and review conditions before doing any activity, like applying fertilizer or manure.


“When the surface gets dry, some people think it’s ok to get into the field. But, a quick sample with a soil probe will give you some real answers,” says Hemenway. “Soils in good health will appear darker in color, crumbly, and porous, like chocolate cake,” says Hemenway. “An unhealthy, poorly functioning soil appears lighter in color, is compacted, or has poor soil structure, and with limited rooting and biological activity.”


“If a producer is considering spring field work,” Hemenway says, “be aware of the negative things that happen with tillage and especially when soil conditions are too wet.” As the frost continues to come out, it can create soft spots that can be prone to compaction if attempting field passes to apply fertilizer, manure, or tillage. Tilling in wet conditions can damage soil structure by reducing soil porosity and air and water movement in the soil profile.


Hemenway explains that tilling in wet soil is not effective in fracturing compacted soils, in fact it creates more compaction further limiting water infiltration and creating a soil environment with extremely poor seedbed conditions.”

A healthy, fully functioning soil can increase production, increase profits, and protect natural resources. Poor soil conditions can lead to poor development of root systems, and other problems later in the season explains Hemenway.


“Also, if a fall soil sample wasn’t taken, getting a spring soil sample is esential to balance your soil’s nutrient needs before planting,” says Hemenway.


To learn more about managing for healthier soil, visit, and click on “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” or contact the NRCS staff found in your local USDA Service Center.



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Taken on June 3, 2013