Any living roots count when protecting soil after harvest

Does southern Alberta ever get wind? Hmm, is rain wet?

Leaving bare ground exposed to wind erosion in southern Alberta just doesn’t seem like a good idea, says Peter Johnson, host of “Wheat Pete’s Word.”

Johnson and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney talked through an agronomy problem sent in by a listener earlier this week.

The question was about whether the listener should plant oats after harvesting silage. The listener has irrigated land in southern Alta., and after taking off the silage crop would typically irrigate a lot in the fall, then disc it to control the weeds.

Perhaps, “getting some hair” in and on the ground would help?

Compaction is certainly something to consider, as discing may help loosen the soil up, but there’s nothing to stabilize the structure that you’ve created, says Johnson. “Roots are the only thing that will stabilize that structure, and oats have such a glorious root system, particularly in that top surface zone,” he says.

Fall rye is the other crop that Johnson would suggest for this situation because it can handle colder temperatures. But getting some living roots into that soil to stabilize it is important, he says.

Fall rye will live through the winter, whereas oats are treated more like a cover crop, they’ll die, but they’ll provide that protection.

Tilling in the spring time is another option. Getting an oat or cover crop in the ground in the fall would still help break up some compaction, and provide protection for the soil. All living roots count, stresses Johnson.

Remember, if you have questions for Peter Johnson, you can email him at [email protected], and be sure to catch the full conversation below:

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