In 1990, approximately 6% of the farmland in America was being farmed using no till practices.
In 2004, approximately 22% of the farmland in America was being farmed using no till practices.
In 2016, approximately 35% of the farmland in America was being farmed using no till practices. In California, however, this figure stood at just 3%.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture report conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, Kansas was the top state for no till (10.4 million acres), followed by Nebraska (9.4 million acres), North Dakota (7.8 million acres), South Dakota (7.2 million acres), Iowa (7 million acres), and Montana (6.9 million acres).
In conventional farming, weed control takes place by turning over the soil. Through plowing, soil is turned over (to a depth of up to a foot), which helps kill weeds and pests. For no till planting to be effective, weeds need to be controlled through the use of herbicides. Herbicides developed during World War II, and introduced into the U.S. in the 1940s, made no till farming on a large scale possible.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which exacerbated the Great Depression, was caused not only by severe drought conditions, but also by overplanting and poor crop rotation practices.
Even though no till farming is a “sustainable” solution, often referred to as “conservation farming,” most organic farmers aren’t fans of it because of the use of herbicides to control weeds.
In no till planting, crops from the previous year or planting season (known as crop residue) are chopped off and left on the topsoil, serving as “mulch” for the new crop. This crop residue improves water retention, which, in turn, reduces the amount of water needed for a given crop.
No till farming can drastically reduce soil erosion.
Between 1982 and 2003, there was a 43% reduction in soil erosion in the U.S. (according to the USDA’s National Resources Inventory), in large part because of an increase in no tillage.
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