New Zealand Ag Engineer Questions Whether Moldboard Plows And Other Intensive Tillage Tools Need to Start Carrying A Cigarette-Style Warning

John Baker maintains the consequences of plowing today are serious enough that tillage tools should come with warning labels that are similar to cigarettes.

And as Managing Editor John Dobberstein recently pointed out in our e-mail newsletter, No-Till Farmer E-Tip, our staff has always argued that tillage is addictive, especially when it’s recreational tillage that accomplishes little or nothing.

Dobberstein’s article dealt with New Zealand ag engineer John Baker pointing out the many consequences of doing conventional tillage. The developer of the Cross Slot no-tillage system noted that extensive tillage contributes to global warming, crop failures and erosion. In fact, Baker maintains a continued emphasis on intensive tillage will eventually lead to famine in some parts of the world.

“No-tillage is the equivalent of keyhole surgery as opposed to plowing, which is invasive surgery,” Baker says. He believes it’s important to recognize that no-tillage is the only method of seeding that can feed a hungry world.

Definitely a no-till advocate, Baker says plowing releases carbon into the atmosphere, which adds to global warming and depletes the number of important microorganisms that enrich the soil. Over time, he’s convinced that tillage leads to serious soil erosion, crop failure and drought problems.

Feeding the World

Baker says the single-greatest challenge facing the world today is feeding a population that will increase by 50% over the next 4 decades.

“Only 4% of the world’s surface has arable soil,” says Baker. “That’s not likely to increase, so we have to learn to farm it…

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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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