Newswise — Jan. 22, 2019 – Some farm fields this time of year look messier than others. The January 22nd Sustainable, Secure Food blog explains what drives a grower’s decision when it comes to managing their fields in the winter.

“Some farmers will leave the field as-is over the winter and plant right over it in the spring,” writes blogger Timothy Durham, Ferrum College. “In their view, the residue is beneficial. Others will remove and repurpose as much of the organic ‘litter’ as possible—it’s seen as an obstacle in the field.“

Durham lays out a grower’s options:

  • Use the non-grain part of the crop—the stalk, leaves, etc.—to use in biofuels like ethanol or as grazing for livestock.
  • Plow and bury the residue. “These tillage systems ensure the residues will slowly decompose and release nutrients. It also keeps the field clean for planting next season.”
  • Adopt a no-till system. This has the advantage of keeping valuable carbon from the plants in the soil. “This provides a number of benefits like better nutrient/water retention and soil structure. Carbon glues soil particles together—think about cooking without a binding agent like eggs. It also supports a diverse ecosystem of underground critters, many of which recycle nutrients and troll disease-causing organisms.”

Durham emphasizes weighing the choices based on the circumstances at hand. “Every landscape, soil, and crop combination is different. There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailored management is key.”

To read the complete blog, visit Sustainable, Secure Food at

This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. They work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.

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