Ag Census
STEADY GROWTH. Data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture shows 37% of tillable acreage in the U.S. is no-tilled, up 2.4 percentage points from the 2012 Census, and 35% is in reduced tillage, up 7 points from 2012. Intensive tillage (28%) fell a whopping 10 points from 5 years ago.

No-Till, Cover Crop Acres Continue Upward Trend

Growers are moving away from intensive tillage in favor of no-till, min-till and cover crops, the Census of Ag Shows

While the growth of no-till remains fairly steady across the U.S., a substantial movement away from intensive tillage is occurring among farmers, according to data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture analyzed by No-Till Farmer.

In the U.S., no-till was practiced on 104 million acres in 2017 — up 8% over the 2012 Census figure of 96 million. In 1972, only 3 million acres of no-till was reported in the U.S., and in 2000 it was 51 million.

The number of farms practicing no-till totaled 279,370 in 2017, up slightly from 278,290 in 2012.

Cover crops continue to be a growth area. There were 15.3 million acres of cover crops seeded in 2017, for an increase of 49% over the 2012 total of 10.2 million acres. The on-farm average of cover crop acreage increased from 77 acres in 2012 to 100 acres in 2017, or 30%.

Higher Floor

HIGHER FLOOR. Data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture show the average percentage of acres no-tilled across all U.S. states was 20.4%, up from 18.9% in 2012. The average growth rate in the states was 1.8 percentage-points over 2012, although some major ag states like Montana (8.8), Iowa (4.4), Wisconsin (4.2) and Missouri (3.4) were ahead of the curve.

Cover crops were seeded on 153,402 farms in 2017, an increase of 20,278 farms or 15% over 2012’s total of 133,124 farms.

Here are some other highlights from the data, which was originally released in April:

  • Acres under reduced tillage, excluding no-till, increased 27.5%…
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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein was senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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