Local SWCD Completes Tillage Transect Survey

Employees with the Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District (RISWCD) spent two days last week traveling throughout the rural portions of Rock Island County completing a windshield survey of tillage systems used on cropland.  RISWCD employees Rich Stewart, Sarah Fitzgerald, and Augustana student intern Morgan Anderson reviewed 464 pre selected points within the County.  Traveling along this set route, information at each point was gathered including: present crop type, previous year crop type, tillage system used, crop residue percentage as well as whether or not ephemeral erosion or a cover crop was present.
The amount of residue/cover left on the surface of a field has a direct correlation to erosion control.  Farmer’s that utilize mulch-till or no-till farming systems leave more residue/cover after planting which in turn reduces the amount of soil material leaving their fields. These and other best management practices are being adopted voluntarily by Midwestern farmers in an effort to reduce the amount of nitrates and phosphates entering nearby water sources. These excess nutrients can contribute to lower water quality in streams, rivers, and lakes.
No landowner or farmer information is ever recorded during these transect surveys.  The survey is simply a snapshot to help conservation agencies and their partners to determine trends in crop type, tillage and residue levels, as well as to determine over all soil loss and whether or not use of cover crops is wide spread within the county.
Rock Island County’s information is sent to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and the Conservation Tillage Information Center (CTIC) where they collect data from all 97 SWCD’s transect surveys.  The CTIC uses the information to determine trends in conservation tillage used on a state and national level.  The IDOA is gathering information on a state level to determine tillage and cover crop levels in priority watersheds in Illinois. Part of Rock Island is in the Lower Rock River priority watershed.