Nearly 25% of cropland acres in the U.S. are no-tilled and more than 10 million acres of cover crops have been seeded across the country.

That’s the conclusion drawn by the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the results of which were released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The wide-ranging survey, held every 5 years, produced a 695-page report on numerous aspects of U.S. agriculture, including the number of cropland acres in the U.S. that were no-tilled or saw conservation tillage.

As of 2012, there were more than 389 million acres of total cropland in the U.S. and 279 millon acres eligible for tillage, with 96 million acres falling under no-till practices for all crops — up from about 88 million acres that the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimated in a November 2010 report that used figures compiled from 2000 to 2007.

Another 76 million acres — or 27% of the U.S. total crop acres, according to the Census — fell under “conservation tillage.” That means 173 million acres — or 62% — of U.S. cropland saw either no-till or conservation tillage practices when the Census was taken.

The Census found that of 1.5 million total farms in the U.S., no-till was practiced on 278,290 farms (18.5%), conservation tillage on 195,738 farms (13%), and conventional tillage on 405,692 operations (27%).

No-Till Farmer also calculated the percentage of cropland acres no-tilled in leading agricultural states. Of states with at least 4 million total crop acres, Nebraska and Montana eclipsed 40% of acres that were no-tilled. South Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania all eclipsed 30%.

On the lower end, Texas (8.8%), New York (6.6%), Wyoming (3.8%) and Minnesota (3.7%) all had less than 10% of crop acres no-tilled. Their states collectively represent nearly 58 million acres (15%) of total U.S. cropland.

In terms of total no-tilled acres, the top 10 states were Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Montana, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.

The Census also found 10.2 million acres of cover crops had been seeded in 2012 on 133,124 farms — 2.6% of total crop acres — although recent intense interest in cover crops in some states has likely increased that figure.

Cropland that was idle, or used for cover crops or soil improvement, but not harvested, total 35 million acres, or 4% of U.S. crop acres.




Total Acres

% Of Acres

Tillable Acres 278,824,271 --
No-tillage 96,476,496 34.6%
Conservation tillage 76,639,804 27.4%
Conservation + No-Tillage 173,116,300 62.0%
Conventional Tillage 105,707,971 37.91%

State No-Till Acres % No-Tilled
Nebraska 9,360,482 43.3%
Montana 6,859,498 40.2%
Ohio 4,278,556 39.8%
North Carolina 1,878,617 39.5%
Tennessee 2,107,158 39.5%
Indiana 4,952,131 39.0%
South Dakota 7,158,414 37.3%
Kansas 10,403,753 36.5%
Kentucky 2,307,738 36.4%
Pennsylvania 4,546,052 30.3%
North Dakota 7,848,203 28.9%
Texas 2,576,585 8.8%
New York 280,214 6.6%
Wyoming 91,953 3.8%
Minnesota 818,754 3.7%

* States with at least 4 million total crop acres

** States represent nearly 58 million crop acres