What is it?
It is a system of crop production with little,
if any, tillage. It increases the residue from the crop that remains
in the field after harvest through planting. This results in increased
natural recycling of crop residues.
- Used on 38% (109 million
acres) of all U.S. cropland (293 million planted acres).
- Goal is 50% (146 million acres) of the
planted cropland in the U.S. by 2004.
Where is the use of
conservation tillage expected to increase?
- Conservation tillage soybean acres
are expected to increase rapidly.
- Wheat and cotton acres will also
increase significantly the next five years.
- Corn acres are expected to remain
steady until technological and/or management research helps farmers
How does it help create
Why is soil quality
By leaving crop residue
undisturbed for as long as possible, microbial and other biological
activity in the soil feeds on the stalks, leaves and other crop
residues. This increases organic matter, improves soil tilth and,
ultimately increases soil productivity.
Better soil retains
more moisture for dry periods, yet the improved structure speeds
natural infiltration in wet spots.
- In the Great Plains, continuous no-till
conserves 2-4" of soil moisture annually when compared to
intensive tillage systems.
- In other areas, it improves water
infiltration after the soil reaches its maximum water holding
- The improved soil structure also reduces
compaction enabling plant roots to be stronger, healthier.
Soil erosion can be reduced
by 90% (compared to intensive tillage).
While we have long thought of soil erosion as reducing top soil, we
now know it's one of the top ‘pollutants’ in America’s waters.
Reducing soil erosion
also reduces phosphorous and can reduce pesticide movement.
Reductions in phosphorous result in
reductions in algae and increase oxygen supplies for fish.
Reduces risk of nutrient escape the soil by
increasing nutrient availability and uptake by plant roots.
Converts any escape of crop protection
products into carbon and other basic components.
Can Conservation Tillage
really provide "Greater Profits?"
Certainly, every situation, every
manager and every growing season impacts profitability. The more risk
is reduced, the better the opportunity in increased profitability. The
conservation tillage system reduces labor, equipment costs, and fuel
use, particularly when no-till, one type of conservation tillage, is
The bottom line? If a grower wants to make a
conservation tillage system work and has the fortitude to make the
necessary changes in crop production management, it can provide
production normally increases profit per acre.
No-till wheat improves rotation diversity
providing more crop flexibility and greater profits over the
entire rotation period.
No-till cotton can also increase profit per
acre. This will become more apparent as ginners improve their
ability to gin stripper harvested cotton.