Unleashing the No-Till Monster

WHILE NO-TILL WAS pioneered here in the states, our conversion has been gradual when compared with a few other countries.

For instance, Argentina had 48.7 million no-tilled acres in 2013, which represented an astounding 93% of that country’s crop production. Brazil had 78.6 million acres of no-till, producing 23% more soybeans than the U.S., with most double-cropped behind wheat.

Back in 2013, the worldwide no-till acreage stood at 388 million acres, with the U.S. having 88 million acres. At that time, 60% of South America’s cropland was no-tilled compared to only 24% of the ground in North America.

Creating A Monster. “No-till was born here, yet if you look at other countries, we’re falling behind,” says Bill Richards, the long-term no-tiller from Circleville, Ohio, and former Chief of the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) in the 1980s.

“In some ways, we have unleashed a monster in teaching the world to no-till. It has brought millions and millions of fragile acres into successful production that normally wouldn’t be row cropped. We have expanded our competitor’s capacity to produce.”

Much of the rapid no-till adoption in South America goes back to what these growers learned from U.S. agronomists who made numerous trips to Brazil and Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s.

Right from the beginning, South American growers emphasized saving dollars while harvesting higher yields rather than trying to sell no-till based on soil loss or protecting the environment. They saw no-till as a way to not only increase productivity, but also…

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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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