The Federal Government's Prediction 35 Years Ago That 54% Of All U.S. Row-Crop Ground Today Would Be No-Tilled Was Way Too Optimistic

Some 35 years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture staffers predicted we’d see more than half of all U.S. cropland being no-tilled by now. The 1975 report also indicated that by 2010, 41% of the ground would be minimum tilled and only 5% conventionally tilled.

As you can tell, those optimistic predictions didn’t take place.

Glover Triplett argues that the 1975 projection was overly optimistic.

“The adoption of hybrid corn — from its introduction until 95% of the corn was grown this way — took 30 years,” says the former Ohio State university agronomist. “Today, no one questions the value of improved germplasm, and this only involved changing the source of the seed.

“Adopting no-till is much more complicated.”

Triplett says big differences in soil characteristics and crop response held back no-till acceptance.

Another limiting factor may have been resistance to change. If intensive tillage was good enough for a grower’s father or grandfather, they didn’t see any need to switch to less tillage.

Ernest Flit, an area agronomist with Mississippi State University, believes a lack of appreciation for the need to conserve soil held back no-till adoption. Even today, there’s pressure from lending officers and absentee landowners to use excessive tillage.

Dick Wittman, a veteran no-tiller from Culdesac, Idaho, maintains social and cultural barriers had more to do with the lack of no-till acceptance than economic or environmental factors.

Still another factor is the increased cost of no-till planters and drills, and not knowing what to do with expensive conventional-tillage…

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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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