Upcoming events focus on soil ecology

Ohio State University Extension, in conjunction with the Natural Resource Conversation Service and the Ohio No-till Council, has developed ECO Farming, a tillage system for farmers to consider at upcoming field days.

ECO Farming is a new concept and way of farming in the 21st century.

“ECO Farming stands for Eternal no-till, Continuous living cover, and Other best management practices,” said Jim Hoorman, assistant professor with OSU Extension. “In other words, absolutely trying to eliminate tillage as much as possible.”

Hoorman, along with Ray Archuleta of NRCS’ East National Technology Service Center, Ohio No-till Council President Dave Brandt, and Mark Scarpiti, Ohio NRCS agronomist collaboratively defined and promoted the ECO Farming concept.

“Continuous living cover means that farmers try to keep a living crop on the soil 100% of the time,” Archuleta said. “The goal is to protect the soil from soil erosion, increase water infiltration, and decrease nutrient runoff.”

Examples include grain crops followed by cover crops, pasture or hay systems, or perennial plants.

Other best management practices (BMP’s) include the concept of controlled traffic, water table management where applicable, manure management, and integrated pest management (IPM).

“The goal is to use an integrated system of conservation practices to solve our environmental nutrient issues associated with hypoxia and eutrophication to improve water quality,” Scarpiti said.

From an on-farm standpoint, Brandt has been practicing the concept for 15 years.

“I have reduced my fertilizer inputs by 50 to 70%, herbicide costs by 50%, and reduced my fuel consumption,” Brandt said. “All while adding soil organic matter (SOM) which improved my soil health and increased my crops’ yields over the past 15 years.”

ECO farming seeks to better work with nature than against it.

“This system closely mimics natural cycles in virgin soils by feeding the microbes,” Hoorman said. “You have 1,000-2,000 times more microbes associated with live roots.”

Plants supply 25 to 40% of their carbohydrate reserves to feeding the microbes, which in turn recycle nitrogen, phosphorus, and water back to the plant roots. This natural process improves soil structure and increases water infiltration and water storage.

Farmers will have an opportunity to see ECO Farming demonstrated on the Dave Brandt farm, including two field days at 6100 Basil Western Road, Carroll, Ohio on Aug. 16 and 17, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cost is $28 per day and attendees may register on-line at: https://www.regonline.com/816soilhealthcovercropsday.

In addition, Jeff Rasawehr is holding an ECO Farming field day at 8820 Kuck Road, Celina, Ohio (Mercer County) on Aug. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Attendees should register early for Rasawehr’s field day by calling 419-586-2179. Lunch at this event is free.

Healthy soils will be the focus at another field day on August 18th from 9 a.m. until noon at the Northwest Agricultural Research Station-OARDC, 4240 Range Line Road, Custar, Ohio in Western Wood County. Additionally plots which have been under crop and tillage rotation studies since the 1960’s on the branch site will be highlighted. Additional speakers will highlight economics, water quality, nutrient cycling and increasing water holding capacity in soils during the 3.5 hour session. Preregistration is required by August 12th at 4:30 PM with a registration cost of $15. Full agenda and registration information can be found at

http://agcrops-cms.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/calendar/soil-health-cover-crops-field-day-nw-ohio.

Another field day featuring organic soybeans will be held on Aug. 17 as the 2011 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series continues in Bowling Green. The workshop and tour will focus on new pest control research, including the effects of planting date and the benefits of no-till rotations of rye and soybeans.

It’s at the John Hirzel Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Site at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation, 13737 Middleton Pike. Hours are noon-3 p.m. Admission is free, lunch is provided and no pre-registration is needed.

Six organizations, including Ohio State’s Sustainable Agriculture Team, are presenting the Farm Tour series. Complete details and a list of all 36 tours are available at http://go.osu.edu/DR3. For more information, contact Alan Sundermeier of Ohio State University Extension, 419-354-9050, sundermeier.5@osu.edu.

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