I have three boys who play baseball. If you want any better explanation of how no-till can help your farm’s soils, all you need to do is see some of the baseball fields my boys play on.
This past week, our home field with its all-dirt infield was as hard as concrete. In fact, it would have been easier to use dynamite to find the post for second base. It took a lot of effort to dig up the dirt with a spaded shovel.
When I told my wife just how horrible of shape that field was in (not to mention you could see an erosion gulley near the third-base line), she said she was surprised because we’ve had a lot of rain and she thought that would have loosened up the soil.
That got me to thinking that perhaps a lot of no-till unbelievers must have the same perception.
Here’s the reality. It was because we’ve had so much rain that the exposed dirt was that hard. It had taken a pounding from rain and once it dried and baked under the sun, it became concrete. Imagine your seedling plants trying to emerge through that hard layer.
Folks talk a lot about the cost, time and fuel savings of no-till, but a bigger benefit, in my opinion, is that the residue — or trash, as some skeptics say — actually absorbs the force of the rain and protects the soil.
Yes, there are some definite things you need to manage in no-till that you don’t need to deal with in a tillage system. That takes effort, a willingness to learn, some patience and creative thinking.
But all you need to do is walk in a long-term no-till field and the skin infield of a local baseball field to see and feel the difference.