Soil School: Farming in reality with Warren Schneckenburger

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Warren Schneckenburger is a big proponent of no-till and optimizing soil health, but he also has a disc cultivator that he turns to in times of need.

The Morrisburg, Ont. farmer likes to say he farms in reality — he and his family have been focusing on soil health for a decade, but the clay loam that covers the bulk of the farm’s acres is fairly shallow and drains poorly. It is very productive, however, when tile drained.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Soil School, Schneckenburger, currently president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, shares how he’s learned to adapt to the soil and growing conditions on Cedar Lodge Farms, the family cash crop operation in eastern Ontario just north of the St. Lawrence River.

Schneckenburger notes that his clay soil is slow to dry and warm up in the spring — a fact that has pushed him to adopt strip tillage for 95 percent of the farm’s corn acres. He admits that the cultivator came in handy earlier this year when conditions required a little tickle tillage, or some soybeans would not have been planted.

“The clays can be unforgiving and will definitely try your patience,” says Schneckenburger who credits strip till with unlocking another corn yield plateau for the farm.

In the video, Schneckenburger discusses other agronomic and management practices he uses to manage the soil and the environment. Reducing compaction is key. He uses two central tire inflation systems, tries to put big tires on everything, and runs tires at as low pressures as possible. Track tractors are also part of the farm fleet and have worked really well with the strip till program.

Schneckenburger is a big believer in cover crops. He’s had good success establishing ground cover after soybeans and winter wheat is also part of the mix. A big focus now is establishing cereal rye in corn, a practice that has seen good success in recent years. “By corn harvest the rye is established nicely with decent rooting. If all goes well we have a nice green crop going in the spring to no-till beans into.”

Schneckenburger also touches on new management strategies and practices he feels will play a future role in managing the farm. He’s using SWAT maps for the first time in 2022 and is pleased with what he’s seeing in the demonstration plot. He feels a better understanding of soil, water and topography will be key to unlocking the potential of variable rate fertility and planting — something he feels could take the farm to the next level.

(Watch Warren Schneckenburger’s interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin.)

Click here for more Soil School videos.

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