Soil Nutrients & Erosion Control Methods | Cover Crops | Geringhoff

Soil Nutrients •  Cover Crops •  Plant REsidue • 


The concept is not new – plant residue helps prevent erosion, control moisture and add organic matter to the soil.

But there are special circumstances to consider that are unique to geographic region, soil type and harvest. In her Natural Resource Conservation Service, or NRCS, white paper, Susan S. Andrews, Ph.D., highlights some key points, which are paraphrased below.

With added nitrogen fertilizers, surface residue can add to soil organic matter. It decomposes and fosters nutrient benefits in the ground and it also protects nutrients from getting blown away or washed away through erosion.
In addition to the nutrients that come directly from residue, plant matter can sequester carbon, enhance fungal biomass and nurture earthworm populations.

What’s more, residue retains water in the soil by reducing evaporation, which increases the number of days a crop can survive in drought conditions. Residue can also positively affect properties that relate to moisture retention, such as reduced soil density and improved soil aggregation.


The concept is not new, yet residue management requires just what it suggests – management.

Of course, how residue is produced is based on harvesting techniques. Spencer Walker of Walker Farms in Kansas explains how he manages milo harvesting to prevent erosion as well as retain moisture in the soil with his Geringhoff MiloStar header:

“One of the big advantages is the extra stalk you can leave in the field. Milo fields make an excellent place for cattle to graze after it’s been harvested. It’s also important to protect the field form erosion and the higher stubble height retains more moisture from snow,” he says.


In addition, practices such as strip cropping, terracing, grassed waterways and planting cover crops also help prevent erosion, retain moisture and foster soil nutrients.

Heidi Johnson, a University of Wisconsin-Extension Crops and Soils Agent, outlines how planting cover crops such as oats, rye or clover between rows after corn silage harvest can help. She says the technique controls erosion, improves soil, manages disease, grows nitrogen and can serve as alternative forage for livestock.

But even with residue management and conservation techniques, the soil may still benefit from additional help.

Brothers Phillip and Erik McLain are hands on when it comes to managing nutrients at their farming operation in North Carolina. They came across evidence supporting a 3x2x2 placement method with nutrients – adding NPK three inches on each side of the corn furrow and then two inches down in the ground. They say that this method, combined with in-furrow fertilizer, places key nutrients where the plant needs them.


— Erik and Phillip McLain, Statesville, N.C.

Soil nutrients and erosion control are intertwined and they relate to a host of factors, some of which are directly tied to harvesting and crop production. By managing these factors based on specific criteria, outcomes can be positive. The right equipment, management decisions and alternative ideas can all make a difference.

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