Body of Knowledge: Digging Into Noteworthy No-Till Literature

While no-till, cover crops and other conservation ag principles are very much in the news these days, a look back at the no-till literature from both the near and distant past reminds us that these important concepts are not new — yet there is much left to explore.

In the February 2022 issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide, retired ag engineer Randall Reeder of Ohio State University and retired USDA soil scientist Don Reicosky shared the outcomes of a survey they conducted to identify the most significant works in no-till research and literature. The list of 30 books, articles and academic papers included 15 identified by North American scholars and 15 chosen by a global contingent. In this and other upcoming issues, we will be sharing summaries and highlights from some of these works. The entire list, as well as links to many of the individual works, are available at

Conquest of the Land Through 7,000 Years 

by Walter C. Lowdermilk, 1953.


In 1938, the Department of Agriculture sent Walter C. Lowdermilk (1888-1974), then assistant chief of the Soil Conservation Service, on a tour of the Near East, North Africa, China, England, Holland, France and Italy.

Lowdermilk’s assignment on that trip was to learn lessons about the land from countries that had been cultivating the ground for centuries. These lessons, it was hoped, could be put to use here in the U.S. to prevent the destruction and erosion of soil that has gone hand-in-hand with the fall of civilization throughout the ages.

One of the earliest pieces on our list of no-till works, Conquest of the Land Through 7,000 Years contains Lowdermilk’s reflections. In the introduction, he sets the tone for the 32-page booklet with the observation that mankind’s actions on the land are enduring…

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Julia gerlach web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is the former Executive Editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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