Recently, No-Till Farmer asked Joel Myers if he could provide information about whether harrows or vertical-tillage tools could be considered a no-till practice if it maintained at least 30% of crop residue on the surface.

The former NRCS State Agronomist for Pennsylvania shared with us the NRCS' conservation practice standard for no-till, strip-till and direct seeding. With many no-tillers trying to find a way to manage high levels of corn residue, they have turned to harrows and vertical tillage tools as a way to manage residue while leaving it on the soil surface and avoiding significant tillage.

This could certainly become important under a cap-and-trade program in determining whether growers are eligible to receive payment for no-tilling.

"In reality, what this means is that anyone getting cost share for the practice of no-till cannot use harrows or vertical-tillage tools," Myers wrote to us. "As of when I last knew, the definitions for carbon trading were the old definitions that did not include this limitation.

"If that changes, it will mean that no carbon credits for no-till will be allowed if these tools are used. Also, if the NRCS definition is used to collect county and state data for tracking progress in no-till, it would result in a negative impact."

Click here to review the NRCS standards.