Soil School: A simple approach to healthier soils

Five years ago, Carl Brubacher decided it was time to change how he manages soil on his Arthur, Ont., hog and grain farm. With highly variable soil ranging from sand to heavy clay, he was determined to improve soil health and make the farm more sustainable.

In this premiere episode of RealAgriculture’s Soil School, sponsored by the Ontario Soil Network, Brubacher talks soil with Bernard Tobin and shares how a simple management philosophy is changing his farm.

The first thing he did was park the plow. Straight no-till wasn’t an option, but after extensive research he unearthed the CurseBuster, a minimum tillage implement that features two rows of tines – the first fractures the soil in one direction and the second tine hits the same hole and fractures the soil in the opposite direction. Harrows at the back help to level the field and create a nice firm seedbed.

The CurseBuster helps Brubacher accomplish several of his goals. He wants a simple and convenient approach to loosening the soil without creating the density layers associated with plowing. He also wants to leave residue on the soil to help generate soil activity rather than burying it below the surface.

That combination has led to an explosion in worm populations, much less soil erosion, and larger roots systems for corn, which is grown in rotation with soybeans, wheat, and some edible beans. Driving around the farm is also a smoother ride, he adds. “Years ago we used to bounce around on the plowed fields, but now the fields are smooth all the time and there’s no need to level.”

Density layers are disappearing, the soil is more “curdy” and fields are getting more consistent,” says Brubacher with grin. “Tough areas of the fields are improving and we’re looking forward to the future.”

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