While there are numerous environmental advantages to no-tilling, it’s difficult to overlook the money-saving benefits.
“A significant component of no-till is just plain economics,” says Mark Liebig, an Agricultural Research Service soil scientist at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N. D. “If you can minimize the number of passes over a piece of land with farm equipment, that’s going to save the farmer money in the long run. And certainly with fuel costs the way they are, that’s a significant concern.”
Aside from the economic concerns, there are many environmental benefits associated with no-tilling. “If you’re not disturbing the soil via tillage, you reduce your potential for soil erosion,” he says. “Another thing is that lack of soil disturbance decreases the loss of carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.” The bottom line is that no-till can have a significant impact on soil quality, crop yield and input costs.
“One really important thing, from the farmer’s standpoint, is the impact that changes in soil quality have on crop yield,” says Liebig. “There’s some evidence to indicate that as you maintain these practices over a long period of time, your crop yields will increase.
“It can be a relatively small amount, but we’ve seen evidence of this both in North Dakota and Argentina, which are both semi-arid environments where farmers have been practicing a continuous crop, no-till system for 15 or 20 years. They see increases in organic matter content and major improvements in quality…