The Need For 'True' No-Till

John Baker believes many no-tillers are too complacent about what they think they’re achieving. The proponent of minimal soil disturbance when seeding maintains some no-tillers think they’re doing a good job of sequestering carbon.

But as we have reported previously, several researchers in the U.S. and Australia are questioning whether measurable carbon sequestration is really happening with today’s no-till systems.

Baker, the developer of New Zealand’s Cross Slot limiteddisturbance opener says there is still a lack of true no-tillage on many farms around the world. Although no-tillers are not losing soil carbon at the same rate as when plowing, they’re still oxidizing too much soil carbon with the use of aggressive soil-disturbing openers.

Residue Retention

In the earlier years, Baker says no-tillers focused on residue retention. The residues reduced erosion by holding the soil together, improving infiltration and decreasing raindrop impact and runoff, which favored the use of single- and double-disc-style openers.

Then with yield concerns, tine-style openers became popular in many areas. They were easier to use, reduced hairpinning and could be modified to double-shoot fertilizer. Germination and yields improved, even though these types of openers do not clear surface residue well and cause more soil disturbance than disc openers.

Soil Biology Important

At about the same time, Baker says growers started to understand the main benefit of no-till was the rebirth of soil biology. This led to the growing importance of no-tillers being able to sequester additional carbon from the decomposing surface residues.

Baker believes long stubble, strip-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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