No-Till Is Here, It Works
Yet, it sometimes is difficult for no-tillers to listen to educators bad-mouth the reduced-tillage system that works so well for them. And it’s easy to understand why no-tillers get up in arms when they hear an educator suggest that occasionally using a plow or disc won’t harm their no-tilled soils.
Looking back over the past 38 years, it’s interesting to review a few no-till impressions I remember from around the Midwest.
- Early on, it seemed like the real boosters of no-till on numerous college campuses were ag engineers rather than agronomists.
- Many plant pathologists in the ’70s and ’80s often were against no-tilling because their answer to dealing with any disease was to plow under the crop residue.
- At some universities, there’s still disagreement between members within the agronomy department as to the value of no-till. One scientist told us recently that they have staffers who try to prove the value of no-till, while others down the hall spend their time figuring out why it will never work.
- There’s one Midwestern state where there was an Extension agronomist who constantly tore down the value of no-till in the late ‘60s and early ’70s. When he became ag dean, he changed his tune when he found a way to cash in on researching no-till.
- Another state carried out the Midwest’s most extensive and practical no-till weed-control research program. When the weed scientist retired, the ag dean stopped the project and funneled the dollars toward evaluating more intensive-tillage practices.
- In other states, the chief supporters of no-till were often Extension agronomists who carried out practical field research. When these folks retired, these no-till field studies ground to a halt.
Study What’s Important
One of the Nebraska farmers wrote in the e-mail forum that if we’re looking for farming practices to conserve and build our soils, then tillage can’t be tolerated, and thus there’s no future need to fund most tillage research projects.
While we’ve made considerable progress in the past 4 decades, there’s still a long way to go. Whether some researchers believe it or not, no-till is here to stay with its sustainability, profitability and time-tested ways to save fuel, machinery, labor and soil.
So, you can see why growers who think no-till is a “no-brainer” get irritated when university folks don’t see the value of evaluating items such as narrower rows, twin rows, gypsum or cover crops in a no-till program.