There are both advantages and disadvantages to no till farming.
Advantages of No Till Farming
Below are the primary benefits of no till farming.
Less Soil Erosion: In no till farming, the soil is more resistant to erosion caused by wind and water. This is especially true when an abundance of mulch cover (stalks, straw, leaves, pods, chaff) is maintained on the soil surface.
Less Soil Compaction: Ground that is not tilled is less compacted than soil that is tilled. Tillage busts up the natural soil structure. Loss of structure makes the soil less able to support heavy loads, such as the wheel traffic from tillage operations. Loss of structure also makes the soil inherently more vulnerable to compaction. Many people think that soil needs to be loosened with tillage, for water infiltration and root growth. However, after a heavy rain, tilled soil has all ran back together again – so people think that more tillage is needed. In the long run, tillage leads to more tillage, and the soil becomes in ever worsening condition.
Saves Time: You’ll only have to pass over a field just once (rather than three or more times), no till farming saves you in labor costs and can also help you get your crops planted before the soil dries too much.
Lower Fuel Costs: Fewer passes across the field in no till farming will dramatically reduce fuel costs.
Less Soil Moisture Loss: No till seeding leaves plant residues on the ground, which can help keep the soil moist and protect against evaporation caused by sun and wind.
Healthier Soil: In fields that are not tilled, when the plant residues decompose at a natural pace on the soil surface, many life forms increase in and on the soil. This creates a healthier field ecology, which contributes to fewer flare-ups of damaging insects. By avoiding tillage, soil organic matter can increase, and this is the Number One factor for productive soils.
Disadvantages Of No Till Farming
Below are the main drawbacks to no till farming.
Initial Cost Of No Till Equipment: The initial investment in no till equipment and parts can be one of the major deterrents to switching from conventional tilling to no till planting. In general, though, that money can be recouped through higher crop yields, labor savings and selling off of old tillage equipment and downsizing tractors or eliminating extra tractors that are no longer needed. Good used no till equipment is readily available in most places. In all reality, the total machinery overhead for no till shouldn’t be any more than in a tillage regime, and usually is less. If cropping diversity is increased, seeding equipment can be smaller (narrower) and still be very timely. Also, it is often possible to run at higher ground speeds when no till seeding versus in tilled seedbeds where the soil is thrown around too much at higher speeds.
Learning Curve For No Till Planting: Some people do not want to learn the new techniques of no till farming, preferring to stick with conventional tillage. But there are numerous resources and products being developed, almost daily. And we’re proud to be a company that is constantly working to make no till farming easier and more profitable. Still, no till does require more skilled management.
Gullies Can Form: As a long-term result of no till seeding, gullies can form, potentially getting deeper by the year, because the field isn’t continually being smoothed with tillage (thus hiding how much erosion was really occurring). Using underground tile lines, cover crops, and grass waterways can help intercept and carry this runoff from the field. Maintaining high amounts of mulch cover also reduces runoff and the tendency to form rills or gullies. Low-pressure radial tires, tracks, and changing up the traffic patterns across the field also reduce the tendency for gullies to form.
Potential Increased Chemical Use: While no till farming can actually help curb fast growing weeds, most types of no till farming still require the use of herbicides. However, by leaving weed seeds on top of the soil surface where they are prone to being eaten by insects, birds, and mice, or rotting away, helps keep weeds in check.
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Please make note: We sell over 100 add-ons, attachments, parts, and equipment to make no till farming easier and more efficient. We have products for: John Deere, Kinze, Great Plains, AGCO-White, Monosem, Case IH, and other manufacturers of farming equipment. We ship all of our no till products everywhere – across the U.S., Canada, and the world.