In 1980, Sarah Singla’s father became one of the first farmers in France to switch to no-till to reduce the costs of production and reduce erosion. He bought a no-till drill at a farm show and sold the moldboard plow at the same time, so there was no turning back if the reduced tillage system didn’t work out.

It was a difficult start for the Canet de Salars grower. He was criticized by neighbors who thought he was crazy, and he had poor results during the first 2 years. There was no Internet or network of no-till farmers for him to call on for help, but he was stubborn and committed to succeed with no-till.

Singla’s father died in 1990, and her grandfather took over the farm again. He decided to keep no-tilling even when many folks — ag researchers included — said he would eventually have to plow the land. He didn’t see a reason to plow because the farm was able to operate with very low production costs.

In fact, he told Singla that he probably would have had to sell the farm if they had to switch back to tillage. It would have been another investment in tillage equipment and big horsepower tractors, and more money spent on fuel, more tractor hours, more labor and more erosion.

It proved to be the right decision. When Singla took over the no-till farm in 2010, he told her that if she ever thought she needed to buy a plow to farm like the neighbors, he would offer her a trip to Brazil to fully understand why there is no reason to plow. Singla has vowed never to touch the soil with iron and instead relies on roots and photosynthesis to till her soil. She says she’s blessed to run the family farm and grow crops on soils that have been untouched by iron for more than 40 years.

Francesco da Schio, a no-tiller from Vicenza, Italy, also relies on nature to do his tillage. He began no-tilling about 15 years ago because his soil used to blow away with the wind and wash away with traditional tillage. 

With no-tillage, the soil stays on his own land and he can handle work with smaller horsepower tractors. He says no-till has allowed his family to preserve the soil from erosion, save water and farm more efficiently — all while boosting yields.

Alejandro Figueroa introduced those no-till benefits and more to farmers in Slovakia. As executive director of Spearheadslovakia, he traveled the world to learn from no-tillers and then brought that knowledge back to local farmers. 

He focused his discussions on four major areas: time savings, labor savings, better water management and soil improvement. With Slovakia’s short growing season, no-till offers good yields without monopolizing all of a farmer’s time. It also requires fewer man hours, less fertilizer, fewer long-term pesticide concerns and dramatic cost savings due to less machinery, depreciation and reduced fuel usage.

The benefits are also apparent out in the field. No-till provides better water infiltration, reduces evaporation and improves water quality. It has helped increase the organic matter of farmers’ soils and improve nutrient storage. Without tillage, the soil has a better structure, boosted cation exchange rate, buffer and filter water storage capabilities, and improved carbon sequestration. Figueroa says the key is to utilize no-till crop rotations that include both winter and spring crops, making sure to include cover crops.

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Martin Industries 30 years

The No-Till Passport series is brought to you by Martin Industries.

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Since 1991, Martin Industries has designed, manufactured and sold leading agriculture equipment across the U.S. and Canada. Known for Martin-Till planter attachments, the company has expanded to include a five-step planting system, closing wheel systems, twisted drag chains, fertilizer openers and more in their lineup. Their durable and reliable planter attachments are making it possible for more and more farmers to plant into higher levels of residue.