Look Out For “Soil Miners”

When it comes to continuing to rent land successfully no-tilled for several years, some readers find they are at a distinct disadvantage.

That’s because other farmers have seen the money-making advantages of taking over no-tilled ground and “mining” higher yields off the land with minimum tillage or conventional tillage practices. As a result, it almost seems like there’s a disincentive for continuing to no-till rented ground in some areas.

More Land Competition

During a late August carbon sequestrian conference in Des Moines, Iowa, veteran no-tiller Jim Kinsella of Lexington, Ill., indicated a number of neighboring farmers are “licking their chops” while attempting to rent no-tilled ground.

“These farmers are basically carbon and soil miners and recognize what we have added in the way of soil quality with no-till,” he says. “They figure they can increase yields by tilling the soil.”

Unfortunately, these soil miners are taking the benefits found in soils which have been paid for by the general public through government payments. A good example is plowing down Conservation Reserve Program land that’s been protected for 10 years or more and using tillage to degrade these soils.

Kinsella says putting more air into the soil with a disc, chisel plow or field cultivator can boost the short-term activity of microbes and earthworms which releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Tillage can also “mine” valuable soil nutrients from deeper in the soil. So instead of being a benefit for no-till, this turns into an economic disadvantage when others see…

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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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