New study finds ways to retain soil moisture

© A study is comparing soil moisture levels between conventional farming and no-till.
© A study is comparing soil moisture levels between conventional farming and no-till.
A study is comparing soil moisture levels between conventional farming and no-till.
A study is comparing soil moisture levels between conventional farming and no-till.

WICHITA COUNTY, Tx (RNN Texoma) - It was day 51 of no significant rain in Wichita County on Thursday. Which some area farmers said is worrisome.

David Graf, Wichita County Ag Extension agent, said the topsoil has dried out and the subsoil could be next.

Kenneth McAlister teamed up the agricultural organization to find the best way to retain soil moisture. McAlister serves on soil and water health boards at county, state, and national levels.

They leased 120 acres for a study farm to compare conventional farming and no-till. They divided the land into five blocks. One of them meant for conventional farming and the other for variations of no-till.

To test what method retains the moist soil moisture water probes are placed into each block 40 to 60 inches in the ground. The probes are solar powered.

McAlister said he made the switch to no-till 11 years ago and is trying to convince others of doing the same.

"Being in the no-till practice if you can store more moisture over the year in that soil down deep and your roots can get to it, you can sacrifice a few rains and make some kind of crop," McAlister said.

He said no-till can be a solution to farm during dry conditions.

"We're trying to show them that look if you go this we can change what you do," McAlister said. "No-till farming is tricky. You got a lot of things to overcome to get started but when you do get there it's well worth the benefits."

Tillage farming is a form of weed control by using plows to overturn soil while no-till farmers chisel the ground to insert seeds and use herbicides to weed.

McAlister said unlike conventional farming, no-till does not hurt soil or leave it exposed to erosion. He also said it helps retain water.

"It's a way for your moisture to stand on residue and not run off and soak up into your soil," McAlister said.

Around 55-percent of area farmers already made the switch. McAlister said he expects to see significant results next year.

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