Will The Drought Boost No-Till Adoption?

As this year's drought remains on the minds of agriculture, two articles weighed in on no-till adoption and the potential of the practice to buffer farms from dry conditions.
The Wall Street Journal quoted USDA economist John Horowitz as saying no-till is growing by 1.5% and is now practiced on 35% of crop acres. But less than 10% of American farmers are considered continuous no-tillers, Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn was quoted as saying.
Some farmers are no-tilling on a selective basis or trying strip-till so they can control weeds and plant earlier in the spring. But Horowitz expects this year’s widespread drought will draw attention to no-till’s abilities to lessen soil erosion and retain moisture.
Would no-till grow faster if there were stronger laws incentivizing farmers to adopt no-till? No-till farmer and philanthropist Howard Buffett thinks so.
Buffett told the Des Moines Register that stronger government action is needed to encourage farmers to follow better fertilizer and tillage practices, instead of being obsessed with yields. In the still-idled Farm Bill discussions, some lawmakers proposed tying eligibility for federal crop insurance to conservation compliance.
“Government has the biggest club, and if it doesn’t use it, there will be less good conservation practices,” Buffett says. “No-till saves fuel and it saves the soil. If you manage your operation properly, it won’t cost you yields.”


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