If You’re Running A Fluffing Harrow, NRCS Maintains You’re Not Really No-Tilling

 If you ran a fluffing harrow over some of your ground last spring just before planting, you may be surprised to learn that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) no longer considers those fields to be no-tilled. 

The NRCS definition of no-till for many years required at least 30% residue left on the soil surface.

But in 2006, NRCS quietly put through a new definition that rules that operating any type of full-width tillage regardless of depth no longer qualifies for use on no-tilled acres.

That means using these tools will disqualify you for no-till government program payments. And if you’re in a state where extra government program dollars are doled out for no-till, you won’t be happy when some of your acres are reclassified as mulch tillage, even when there is still more than 30% residue on the soil surface.

The sad part of this situation is that NRCS may be talking out of both sides of its mouths. It apparently is not relying on its new no-till definition when making in-the-field evaluations to determine tillage usage.

Attendees at last winter’s National No-Tillage Conference used fluffing harrows on 15% of no-tilled acres.

If you accept the U.S. Department of Agriculture figure that 63 million acres were no-tilled in 2004, this means 9.5 million of those acres would no longer qualify as no-till.

While many veteran no-tillers use fluffing harrows, the use is even more important to growers transitioning to no-till. These growers often rely on low-disturbance tools to encourage…

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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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