When it comes to change, myths overshadow reality and hold back growers from adopting new technology. Even after more than four decades of no-till, it's still common for folks to talk about, and be influenced by, unfounded clamis rather than successes.
Failure to Evaluate
Alan Mindermann finds most myths are based on what folks don't know or fully understand about no-tilling. The veteran no-tiller from Apage, Oklahoma, says the problem is that what many nonbelievers think is face, generallly turns out to be fiction.
University of Nebraska ag engineer Paul Jasa says the myths he hears about no-till run the gamut of subjects, from weeds to compaction, heavy residue, lower yields, insects, diseases and soil quality. He's spent years of research disputing them.
David Lobb says a major myth is that wind and soil erosion are major causes of degraded topsoil. Instead, the University of Manitoba soil scientist maintains the culprit is tillage erosion. Over time, extensive tillage pushes more soil down the slope than up the slope.
This results in extensive soil losses at the top and excessive soil accumulation at the bottom of the slope.
Lob says research shows that more than 75% of soil loss at the top of slopes is caused by tillage erosion. With 15% to 25% of fields classified as hilltops, moderate to severe erosion occurs after decades of tillage.
Another myth, he says, is that by switching to no-till, you will stop soil erosion and allow the topsil to immediately restore its productivity. But even with large quantities of crop residue on the surface, no-till may need several decades or centruies to restore severly eroded topsil.
What Folks Don't Get
Below are myths we've heard about no-till. After reviewing these myths, we'd like you to share with the No-Till Farmer audience the real facts learned from you no-till experience.
Weeds will take over in no-till and the herbicide costs will kill me.
With continious corn, I won't be able to handle the residue and my planter will plug. I'll need to burn residue or invest in a harrow.
Since it's always cold and wet under excessive residue left by no-tilling, tillage is needed to warm up and dry out the soil.
Insects and diseases will be a critical issue. Tillage kills insects, destroys their habitat, decomposes residue and reduces disease.
Cover crops are a waste of forage, nutrients and moisture
I'll have to invest in a ripper due to compaction from no-till. The combine and grain carts will compact the soil.
Soil must be tilled to raise crops. Roots can't penetrate untilled soil. Yields will drop with no-till.
Residue needs to be incorporated to build soil organic matter.
I'll have to till the soil so it can soak up valuable water and eliminate costly runoff.
Since no-tilled ground turns hard, tillage will be needed to loosen the soil and smooth out harvest-time gullies and ruts.
Switching to no-till means buying a new no-till drill and sprayer. Yet I'll still need to use my existing tillage equipment. So why take on the additional expense?
I'll need to add nonmobile soil amendments and use tillage to incorporate surface-applied fertilizer and lime.
What Do You Think?
Overcoming the myths of no-till means being able to adopt a different type of management system. And it' essential to have the proper mental attitude that will allow you continue to expand your no-till knowledge every day. It's the only way to set yourself apart from farmers who practice excessive tillage and believe the unfounded myths about no-tilling.
Again, we'd welcome your thoughts on how to overcome these no-till myths. Please e-mail your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 402. I look forward to hearing from you.