Organic no-till an emerging focus


Organic no-till an emerging focus

Reducing tillage is an emerging focus in organic cropping systems.

Iowa State University Extension organic specialist Kathleen Delate calls organic no-till “new on the block” and says it will be difficult to perfect as most organic farmers rely on cultivation to control weeds.

“And I’m not saying ‘throw away your steel’ because it’s still in the experimental phase, but there’s a machine called a roller-crimper. You plant a cover crop in the fall and then roll it with the roller-crimper in the spring and it crushes down to a mulch.”

She tells Brownfield in ideal conditions the organic crop emerges but weeds don’t.

“There are (also) high-residue cultivators you can take through that will return a lot of that mulch if you need to go back in and do any kind of weed management. Meanwhile, (reducing tillage) is going to sequester more carbon and lead to better soil quality in the organic system.”

Delate says flame weeders are another weed management tool that can be used instead of a row-crop cultivator.

Brownfield interviewed Delate during the 2021 Iowa Organic Conference in Iowa City Monday.