When you’re neck-deep in the needs of today — trying to raise profitable crops and improve the sustainability of your farm operation at the same time — it’s easy to forget the battles you’ve lost and won, especially if you’ve been no-tilling a long time.
It wasn’t long ago that our soils were thought of by farmers as something to be dominated to conform to our demands, rather than being preserved and improved. But no-till practices, along with cover crops, precision technology and advanced nutrient management practices, have in the last 50 years made it possible for farmers to be sustainable and profitable.
The latest proof is a new book released by my colleague, No-Till Farmer editor Frank Lessiter: From Maverick to Mainstream: A History of No-Till Farming. Spanning more than 400 pages, I can tell you this book was a massive undertaking. There have been many individual contributors to the success of no-till since Harry M. Young tried it out on less than 1 acre in Herndon, Ky., in 1962.
One chapter lets you meet 43 No-Till Legends, including pioneers of the practice that Great Plains and Pacific Northwest no-tillers will recognize: Dwayne Beck, John Aeschliman, Roy Applequist, Gabe Brown, Jill Clapperton, Jim Cook, Jim Halford, Guy LaFond, Paul Jasa, Bob McNabb, Jim McCutcheon, Mort and Guy Swanson and Ray Ward.
Just think about this: no-tilled acres in just the U.S. have increased from a few million in 1972 to 96 million acres in 2012, driven mostly by the power of sharing ideas and information rather than passing regulations. Census figures to be released next year are likely to show continued no-till growth.
If you’re a no-tiller, whether you’re driving in your truck, combine or tractor right now or just sitting at home or elsewhere, take a minute to pat yourself on the back for being part of this movement. Think about how much soil you’ve saved, and the part you’ve played in leaving the land better for the next generation.
And feel free to click here and find out more about the achievements being celebrated in this book.