The no-till movement seems to be going strong across South Dakota.

That’s the conclusion, at least, of this year’s South Dakota Cropping Systems Inventory, which is a statistical ‘snapshot in time’ for the types of cropping systems farmers are using in the state.

The inventory found more farmers across South Dakota are using conservation systems than a decade ago. Thirty-year trends for the use of conventional tillage vs. no-till systems show continued progress in adoption of no-till, says Jeff Zimprich, head of the South Dakota’s NRCS office.

Here’s what the agency found:

  • No-tilled acreage started a very gradual climb in the early 1990s at less than 500,000 acres, but a more significant increase began in 2000. The state now has about 6.5 million no-tilled acres.
  • The use of no-till cropping systems is predominant on 46% of South Dakota cropland. The percentage of cropland in no-till has increased from about 37% in 2004 to 46% in 2015.
  • The number of counties with more than 75% of their cropland acres under a no-till system increased from 4 counties in 2004 to 14 counties in 2013, and to 17 counties in 2015.
  • The percentage of cropland in mulch-till remains about the same this year as in 2004 at 22%, although that’s up 3 percentage points over 2013 results. Reduced tillage and conventional tillage have seen their share of acres drop by 7 and 2 percentage points, respectively, since ’04.
  • The percentage of crop acres under conventional tillage is highest in far eastern South Dakota, and in a few counties in the southwestern part of the state, but no-till dominates in the central South Dakota.
  • For the first time, the overall percentage of acres under conventional tillage was down slightly. The total number of acres under conventional tillage — including fallow — peaked at about 5 million acres in 1990, but have dropped to about 2.5 million acres in 2015.

While I’m sure there is more progress to be made, these numbers seem to show no-till has a bright future in South Dakota, and that growers are taking the benefits of no-till practices even more seriously.