Soil Microbes Flourish in No-Till

No-tillers recognize the fact that the millions of microbes living underground in their fields are continually improving soil quality by cycling nutrients and turning residues into organic matter.

Results from a recent University of Illinois evaluation of 62 research studies that looked at the impact tillage has on the underground animals in your soils back up these claims.

In these comparisons, no-till had the largest soil microbial biomass and enzymatic activity. Yet, what was just as surprising was the fact that chisel plowing was equal to no-till in terms of producing a large amount of underground microbial biomass.

Illinois graduate student Stacy Zuber says no-till and to a lesser degree, conservation tillage, maintains or improves soil quality by preserving both soil structure and moisture. By doing so, the increased soil organic matter provides a valuable habitat for soil microbes.

Microbes Matter Most.

“Soil microbes are the workhorses of the soil,” she says. “They break down crop residues and release nitrogen (N), phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients back to the soil so they’re plant-available. We want a healthy, diverse microbial community so those processes can happen and improve our soils.”

In the past, many of the studies that linked tillage intensity and microbial activity were conducted on farms rather than in research plots. While most studies found more soil microbes with no-till, the results vary due to different environmental factors, soil type, tillage tools used, tillage depth, N rate, temperatures, rainfall and the presence of cover crops.

Big No-Till Benefits.


To view the content, please subscribe or login.
 Premium content is for our Digital-only and Premium subscribers. A Print-only subscription doesn't qualify. Please purchase/upgrade a subscription with the Digital product to get access to all No-Till Farmer content and archives online. Learn more about the different versions and what is included.

Lessiter frank

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.

Top Articles

Current Issue


No-Till Farmer

Get full access NOW to the most comprehensive, powerful and easy-to-use online resource for no-tillage practices. Just one good idea will pay for your subscription hundreds of times over.

Subscribe Now

View More

Must Read Free Eguides

Download these helpful knowledge building tools

View More
Top Directory Listings