Soil Quality Improves With No-Till

The winner of the Phoenix Rotary Equipment Ltd., conservation tillage essay contest explains the benefits of boosting soil quality with no-till and direct seeding.

Conservation farming is revolutionizing agriculture through the adoption of new ideas, technology and practices. Direct seeding (no-tilling) is just one of these new practices that is reforming the way that we farm.
 

No Seedbed Preparation

By adopting direct seed farming practices, the farmer seeds and fertilizes in one pass (sometimes two) into the stubble left from last year’s crop or chemical fallow without preparing a seedbed. This creates minimum disturbance to the soil surface, leaves residue on the surface and results in little or no erosion to the soil. Keeping the soil firmer and covered with residue allows for increased water filtration and therefore increased available water in the soil, as well as less erosion of the soil.
 
Conventional tillage systems make the soil vulnerable to erosion and decrease available water. Plant pathologist James Cook of Washington State University writes in his article “Talking Points” that the conventional fallow system “is only 30 percent efficient.” For example, for every 10 inches of precipitation with the fallow system, only about 3 inches are captured and are available for use by the next crop. This leaves about 70 percent of the water to evaporate and be lost by the runoff that erodes the soil.
 
In eastern Washington, it is estimated that conventional tillage causes soil erosion of about 12 tons per acre in a given year. With the adoption of direct seeding practices, it is estimated that this number would drop to about 2 tons per acre. Direct seeding systems allow for…
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