Let's Pay Farmers to No-Till

While U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have been bragging about funding nearly $290 million in renewable energy efforts since the start of the Bush administration, most of the investment has gone to bioenergy and biomass ventures. In fact, much of their comprehensive energy strategy to help farmers reduce high energy costs is simply being promoted without offering any new economic incentives.

While government officials have touted the fact that no-till each year saves 217 million gallons of fuel and up to $480 million per year in fuel costs, they’ve done little to encourage the practice. As an example, a recent USDA news release indicates that a farmer can save at least 3.5 gallons of fuel per acre by switching from conventional tillage to no-till. At November 2005 prices, this amounts to a savings of $7.70 per acre in production costs.

With l,000 acres, these savings add up to 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel per year worth $7,700. In other energy saving calculations for a 1,000-acre operation, department officials say farmers can save $85 per acre in fertilizer costs with proper manure management, save $13 per acre with precision agriculture techniques, save $40 per acre with integrated pest management and further trim expenses with effective irrigation water management, prescribed grazing and extensive use of windbreaks and shelterbreaks.

A few of the points they missed include the fact that no-tillers normally use smaller horsepower tractors that burn less fuel. The difference between a 150- and a 70-horsepower tractor can be $7 per…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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