Drive as far as you can along the 120-mile southern shore of New York’s Long Island and you’ll arrive in the Hamptons. The exclusive high-style living area with its multi-million dollar mansions is where Big Apple’s elite spend their weekends and summer vacations. So what does this have to do with no-till?

As reported in the East Hampton Star newspaper, a dust storm last winter blanketed the main street in the town of Amagansett. The dust made its way into buildings, sickened employees, led to the temporary closing of at least one business and kept local school children indoors during recess.

As a result, the local town board recently proposed a law that would institute fines of up to $2,500 or 6 months in jail for farmers who didn’t seed cover crops to protect against wind erosion. As you can guess, farmers and farm groups aren’t happy with the proposed law’s language.

EPA Involvement

Maybe you haven’t thought about the amount of dust you generate in a given day, but lawmakers have. That’s why the EPA in 2010 started taking a hard look at the amount of dust generated on farms and how it impacts air quality and human health.

Tillage and harvesting operations were singled out in California’s San Joaquin Valley as a key contributor to PM-10 particles, which are 25-100 times thinner than a human hair. Nearly 73 tons per day of dust were being emitted through the use of extensive tillage practices in 2010. 

The 2017 Ag Census indicates only 7% of California’s cropland is no-tilled while 23% is farmed with reduced tillage. That leaves an overwhelming 70% still being farmed the conventional tillage way — with as many as 10 tillage passes across a field.

A No-Brainer

No-till and strip-till research conducted by Jeff Mitchell has shown a striking reduction in the amount of dust generated, reducing air particulate pollution considerably. “We’ve had a 65-93% reduction in dust,” says the plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.

Linked to the reduction in tillage passes are the supplemental benefits of no-till: reduced dust emission, lower fuel emissions, less fuel consumption, less wear and tear on equipment and less risk to human health.

In the years ahead, worries about dust are going to show up on the radar of more growers. The solution is to keep your ground covered 365 days a year, which 79% of our readers are already doing with no-till and cover crops. Relying on this kind of no-till system as an effective way to control dust is a no-brainer and deserves support.