Why Don’t More Folks No-Till?

In midsummer, retired Ohio State University agricultural engineer Randall Reeder met with a group of Western Australian no-till farmers that were looking at U.S. agriculture. While touring Dave Brandt’s no-till corn, soybean and cover-crop operation at Carroll, Ohio, and viewing neighboring fields that were still being tilled, there were questions on why more American growers do not practice no-till.

One Australian farmer asked a simple question: “If no-till is so good, why don’t all of Dave’s neighbors do it?”

He went on to point out that every farmer in Western Australia practices no-till because the area is so dry. They would go broke if they plowed and lost even a small amount of valuable moisture.

How would you answer the Australian’s question?

Too Many Government Bailouts

Reeder replied that one reason as to why many U.S. growers continue to practice tillage is due to the fact that federal government support programs, including crop insurance, reduce the risk of financial failure. U.S. Extension educators have more than 100 years of experience teaching farmers how to use new and better practices, but Reeder also pointed out that not all farmers listen and learn, and some probably never will when it comes to tillage concerns.

Still another result of offering commodity support prices is that it translates into higher land values, including rising cash rents. 

Having spent part of a year working in Australia, Reeder knows firsthand the challenges that growers face in these extremely dry areas.

“Since Australia has no crop insurance…

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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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