New ground: Where to start the regeneration process?

If you were getting a new piece of ground that had been conventionally tilled the last 16 years, where would you start the regeneration process? 

I can’t soil test yet, but know that it hasn’t had much, if any, fertilizer in the past 5-6 years.  A lot of clay and very little organic matter are things I can see from driving over it.  It was previously no-tilled so I am pretty sure it has a pretty shallow hardpan.  I have cattle and have been rotational grazing other covers and crops.  The ground has water access and is next to a pasture I rent but is too far for frequent moves. 

Question submitted from Northwest Kansas.


Michael Thompson, Almena, KS

Plant rye, rapeseed, vetch, and maybe a winter peas now.  This will begin to provide some groundcover and roots and possibly some grazing this coming spring.  Follow this mix with German millet, proso millet, sunflower, sunn hemp, rapeseed, buckwheat, daikon radish, forage sorghum, and sorghum sudan.  This strategy allows for soil cover first then aggressive roots to help take out the hardpan.

Manage grazing with polywire and remember to leave plenty of residue as this will help keep the ground cooler which will keep the soil microbes alive.  Leaving residue will also leave more water for growth instead of it evaporating away.   

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