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No-Till Farming…Right or Wrong?

No-Till Farming…Right or Wrong?

Some of you may already be practicing no-till, zero till or some form of it and you may even have been doing this for many years.

It became a popular practice in the US around the 1940’s just after the Dust Bowl and when a broadleaf weed killer was introduced. But it wasn’t easily accepted then and it still has some struggles today, being practiced by just over half of farmers in the US (according to multiple different sources). As some varieties of weeds have become resistant to herbicides a practice of minimal tillage has emerged. Look for info about this in future discussions.

One of the first people to talk about No-Till farming and really challenge the way farming was done basically everywhere was Edward H. Faulkner in his book Plowman’s Folly.  His book was first printed in 1943 and then published in 1974 and Faulkner was very blunt throughout the book on his thoughts on agriculture. Stating on the first page “The entire body of ‘reasoning’ about the management of the soil has been based upon the axiomatic assumption of the correctness of plowing. But plowing is not correct.”

The book goes on to state the use of modern equipment caused people to be slightly overly excited about everything that could be done to work the ground, killing weeds and making room for seeds to be dropped in the ground. On one hand, as agriculture became clearly focused on the massive need to produce higher yields from each individual farm, the use of machinery shifted in the direction of no-till for efficiency reasons. On the other hand, the benefits of no-till for water retention, prevention of soil erosion and the organic matter remains on the field as a great natural fertilizer. The shift makes a lot of sense. Faulkner sites unsponsored research to back up his thoughts on no-till, he was a county extension agent for years and conducted his research on no-till on his own after he had retired.

But like any agricultural practice, what works in one part of the country doesn’t always work in another part of the country. Here is a map from the USDA’s Economic Research Service website showing nonadopters, full adopters, partial adopters (no-till and strip till) and other.

No till map by region of the US

We want to hear what you think! Comment below with where you’re from, if you practice no-till or not and what you think about it.

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