Smoky neighborhood

Monday evening, March 24, 2014

As the day is winding down, you can see the smoke from many field fires around the neighborhood.  All along the Kessinger Ditch valley, from Palmyra Township, down through Steen and Harrison Townships the crop residue fires are burning.  These are necessary because of the result of  the extensive flooding through that valley back in late December.  As the flood waters rose, they floated the corn and soybean and wheat crop residue (like some kind of flotsam) to the water’s edge, making windrows or larger deposits of various size.  When the flood waters recede, they leave these residue deposits in small strips or large areas, depending on the amount of residue picked up by the flood waters and the topography of the fields.   These piles of crop residue act as a very effective mulch, and the soil underneath stays very wet.  The excessive soil moisture is a hindrance to proper planting.

 

In this photo, you can see the crescent-shaped windrow (lower left to top center) of soybean residue that we are burning.  In the background you can see the grassy levee along Kessinger Ditch, along with a culvert pipe that drains the surface water from the field.  The December 2013 flood from the 5+ inch rain event moved some of the field residue into this windrow.  This windrow shows where the edge of the flood water met the higher ground.  The residue is always piled along the edge of the water.  You can see where  the fire has been started to remove this residue.

In this photo, you can see the crescent-shaped windrow (lower left to top center) of soybean residue that we are burning. In the background you can see the grassy levee along Kessinger Ditch, along with a culvert pipe that drains the surface water from the field. The December 2013 flood from the 5+ inch rain event moved some of the field residue into this windrow. This windrow shows where the edge of the flood water met the higher ground. The residue is always piled along the edge of the water. You can see where the fire has been started to remove this residue.

As most area farmers have adopted a no-till method of farming, this leaves the crop residue on the soil surface.  This contrasts to the older method where the crop residue was ‘turned under’ by a plow.  It may seem significant today as the fires are burning, but in reality only a tiny fraction of a percent of the total acres must be managed in this way.  The large majority of the acres up that are out of the flood plain of the creek remains intact.

This type of burning will occur only one or two days in the early spring each year.   Once this has been completed, the soil surfaces under the crop mat will dry out properly, and normal field operations can continue.

Just another task to complete before field operations can commence.

 

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