By Seth Owens

District Technician

For the most part, another Northwest Ohio crop year is in the books. While many farmers throughout the region are preparing for the coming spring, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and our federal counter-parts are taking a look at what was left behind. Twice annually, the Van Wert Soil & Water Conservation District, as well as all other districts within the Western Lake Erie basin watershed, perform what is known as the tillage transect. During this time, a pre-determined route is driven throughout the entire county and valuable information is gathered. As we head into the new year, here are a few of the agricultural trends we are seeing in Van Wert:

Of the roughly 210,000 harvestable acres in the county, 54 percent were planted with soybeans in 2018, 38 percent were planted with corn, and roughly 8 percent with wheat or some form of forage. When compared with the figures from one year ago, these numbers have remained very nearly the same. As it pertains to soil health and nutrient run-off, the use of tillage and the absence or presence of a cover crop plays a pivotal role. The graph above shows the break-down of the types of tillage used in Van Wert County.

Why are these figures significant?

As no doubt many of you are aware, Lake Erie and the algal blooms have been quite the topic of debate in recent months, and much of the blame for these blooms has been put on the shoulders of nutrient run-off from Northwest Ohio fields. Studies have shown that cover crops that grow over winter greatly reduce the amount of soil erosion, trapping the nutrients in the field and keeping them out of the water. The same can be said when a farmer uses no-till management, in which a crop is harvested, and the succeeding crop is planted directly into the field with little or no disturbance of the soil. The use of these practices and the positive effects they have has not gone un-noticed, and the trends we are seeing show that. In 1988, nearly 90 percent of fields in Van Wert County were completely tilled every year. As it stands today, that figure is less than 10 percent. In that same year, 3.5 percent of fields were left un-tilled. As you can see, the numbers are trending in the right direction, and it is only with cooperation from everyone involved that we will see an improvement in our water bodies.