Got Ruts?

11/19/2014 10:34



Public Affairs Illinois

Natural Resources Conservation Service

2118 West Park Court

Champaign, Illinois 61821

(217) 353-6606



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 13, 2014

Got Ruts?       

Okay. So it was an unusual spring and a great summer. But now you’ve got odd spots and ruts in your fields that have you worried about planting next spring. The question is what can you do about ruts created by fall harvest activities without causing problems with HEL compliance, residue levels, and risking USDA benefits? NRCS says be careful.

“First things first,” says District Conservationist Nick Fritch “NRCS recognizes deep ruts will interfere with normal planting operations if left untreated. But that doesn’t mean you can till up the entire field when really, only a portion is affected.”

Farmers with rut issues need to take steps now to deal with them. But they need to ensure they stay in compliance and don’t ‘un do’ any conservation benefits. “Your goal is to perform the minimal amount of tillage necessary to level out the rutted areas,” Nick explains. “Don’t go crazy and till up the entire field. Just fix the problem areas and move on.” In other words, be mindful of your conservation credo.

NRCS offers a few suggestions to approach the sticky situation correctly.

  1. Grab your camera. Take a few photographs to document field conditions. If ruts or gullies exist or residue has drifted into piles, pictures will confirm that situation. Keep the pictures for later use and evidence just in case your tract comes up for a random spot review or a whistleblower reports it.
  2. Make a note or indicate on field maps the specific areas you’re watching. Your notes and photographs will confirm the actual onsite conditions and the dates.
  3. Stop in and see your local NRCS staff. Tell them what you’ve see and what your concerns are. They can advise you on what action will work best and they will now be familiar with it if your land shows up on a spot review sometime next year. They can make a note of it for later reference, if needed.

Nick recommends farmers keep these guidelines in mind over the next few months. “My advice is to be a minimalist with tillage for any rut repairs.

Remember, when conducting compliance reviews, NRCS always looks at documented recent AND long-term conservation history. If you must perform management techniques that fall outside of your usual and ordinary activities, NRCS must ensure the tillage or operations performed were indeed necessary and were the best management decision or option available.

If you approach the problem sensibly, document actual conditions and the decisions you’ve made and you’ve communicated with NRCS, you can remain in conservation compliance. For more information about these special compliance issues, visit with your NRCS staff located at your county USDA Service Center today.