What is No-Till?
No-till farming is the practice of farming without disturbing the soil through traditional means of tilling. Tilling seems like a practical method of farming, it creates a clean seed bed and allows farmers to easily incorporate fertilizers into the soil. The rototiller is the tool of the trade for most farmers, and for good reason. However, as we start to learn more about the benefits of the natural soil ecosystem, we have begun to learn how no-till farming can benefit our crops.
No-till farming has been gaining acceptance among small-scale organic farmers in recent years, though some large-scale conventional farmers have been practicing no-till for decades1. No-till and its associated practices have been proven to be revolutionary for soil erosion control2, water retention and drainage, soil health, disease control, and even weed pressure. Furthermore, no-till farming can provide economic and time saving benefits for the farmer all while conserving the land and combating climate change3. Farmers with land of all shapes and sizes have turned to no-till and it has led to a wide range of innovative practices and techniques, read more to find out if no-till is right for your farm!
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Benefits to the Farmer...
One invaluable benefit of no-till that is universal among practicing farmers is better soil drainage. Across the board, farmers that have transitioned into no-till have been celebrating the ability to access their fields after a rain event (case studies). The process of tilling may create a clean seedbed, but the restructuring of the soil and constant running of the plough can lead to standing water in the field, making it difficult to access. Furthermore, standing water can lead to increased crop disease from water splashing and transmitting pathogens to the plant. As climate changes, no-till farming can be a resilient practice to mitigate the effects of more intense and potentially more frequent storms.
Many farmers report less time on the field with no-till production. While no-till may require a change in practices, without having to till, there is a lot less time spent in the field. With less time on the field, there are fuel savings and less wear and tear on equipment. Furthermore, switching to no-till saves on chemicals and fertilizer. With less disease, there is less need to spend time keeping it off your crops. With a better soil structure, fertilizers are better retained and organic matter and microbial activity helps to keep crops healthy to the point where fertilizers may not be needed as much.
These results may not be universal for all farmers, but with changes in practices associated with no-till, there is likely to be improvement in several of these aspects.