The question occasionally arises, “Just What is No-till?” To answer the question, one simply needs to define the obvious. No-till is no-tillage. There are many procedures involved in making continuous no-till work well. Tillage disrupts what you are trying to accomplish by continuous no-tilling.
For many years, many operators considered themselves no-tillers if they “reduced” tillage and planted the crop with a no-till planter. Many of the challenges associated with the transition to no-till arise from mixing tillage into the formula for successful continuous no-till. If any full-width tillage operation is done to the field, then the field does not meet the qualifications of no-till.
USDA NRCS establishes and keeps the technical standards of the farming practices we carry out on our farms. There are very clear and concise differences between conventional tillage, reduced tillage, mulch tillage and no-till.
For the continuous no-till system to work optimally, no tillage is required. You may want to get a copy of the USDA NRCS standards and specifications for the practice of no-till — and, for that matter, get the standards and specs for the other above-mentioned practices — to better understand the differences between the systems.
Some of the acres we “call” no-till are actually and correctly classified as mulch-till acres by the practice standards. The distinctions made for the differences between the practices are reasonable and essential. Otherwise, anyone can (and has) called just about anything a practice it is not.
Crop management procedures change according to the soil-management practices applied to our fields. For very high-yielding no-till crops and to meet the NRCS standards, do no tillage as the starting point. In coming blogs, I’ll begin to address the many procedures involved in making continuous no-till work well and consider the changes that occur in fields as a result of continuous no-till.
No-till is what it is.. and it is only what it is.