No-Till’s Measuring Stick

Cover crops, stacked rotations and soil cover of 60% or more after seeding are among the pillars of quality, continuous no-till, Rolf Derpsch says.

No-till may be practiced on more agricultural acres in the U.S. than any other country in the world. But South American no-till consultant Rolf Derpsch believes growers here shouldn’t be satisfied.

Why? Because failing to move the development curve forward with no-till could stunt the future growth of the practice and negatively affect growers’ profitability, says the prominent South American no-till consultant.

More than two-thirds of no-till acres in South America are permanently no-tilled, while that’s only the case in 10% to 12% of no-till acres in the U.S., according to numbers from the Conservation Technology Information Center based in West Lafayette, Ind.

Speaking from Paraguay during a webinar, Derpsch outlined steps no-tillers can take to implement a quality, continuous no-till operation.

Defining Quality No-Till

 Derpsch believes no-till practices have reached a plateau because too many growers are engaging in “rotational tillage” — occasionally dusting off the chisel plow to deal with compaction, weed problems or other issues in a field — rather than committing 100% to no-till.

In his experience, growers most often turn their backs on continuous no-till due to mindset, concerns about compaction, phosphorus stratification at the soil surface or the perceived need to incorporate lime to address soil acidity.

Another problem, he insists, is that the definition of no-till is handled loosely.

His definition: “A system of planting crops into untilled soil by opening a narrow slot, trench or band only of sufficient width and depth to obtain proper seed coverage. No other soil tillage is…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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