"Messy" Fields Mean a Clean Earth You wouldn’t plant a new tomato plant without hoeing up last
year’s plant, would you?
Would you be surprised to find out that farmers do?
called no-till farming. Instead of plowing up last year’s crop, farmers simply
plant on top of the bits and pieces of corn stalk, straw, or bean stems left
from last year… and they are creating a cleaner world because of it! Here’s
Keeps the Dirt on the Ground
Just like in a garden, leaves and
stalks are left behind after harvest. In no-till farming, this crop residue, stays on the field and
helps keep the soil in place. It reduces erosion caused by water and wind.
Depending on how much residue is left, no-till farming can reduce soil erosion
up to 90%.
These bits of plants left on fields keeps the
soil from washing away… along with the its nutrients, pesticides and
herbicides. In fact, no-till farmers can cut herbicide runoff rates in half.
Plus, microbes that live in the carbon-rich soils that come from no-tilling
quickly degrade pesticides and use up the nutrients, better protecting
Makes Healthy Soil
When farmers no-till their land,
it reduces the amount of carbon that is released into the air. Farmers want to
keep the carbon in the ground because it builds organic matter for future
crops. In fact, carbon accounts for about half of organic matter.
Creates It’s Own Watering System
No-till farming leaves dried up
pieces of plants on the field. It's like mulch and creates a shade and reduces water
evaporation. It also creates tiny dams, slowing runoff and increasing the
opportunity for water to soak into the soil. Continuous no-till can mean two
more inches of water available to plants in late summer.
Makes Air Cleaner
No-till farming improves air
quality in three ways. It reduces wind erosion, limiting the amount of dust in
the air. It reduces fossil fuel emissions from tractors by making fewer trips
across the field. Plus, it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into
the air by tying up more carbon in organic matter.
Helps Plants Take Root
The more a farmer uses the no-till
method, the more the soil will create clump, in the good way! These clumps make
it easier for plants to establish roots
Crop mulch provides shelter and
food for wildlife, such as game birds and small animals.
Reduces Farm Costs
When a farmer doesn’t till a
field, he/she doesn’t have to drive through the fields another time. This saves
fuel and wear and tear on farm machinery.
Helps Farmers Work Smarter, Not Harder
Not tilling a field can help a
farmer save hours of his/her time. On a 500-acre farm, a no-till farmer can
save as much as 225 hours per year, compared to a tillage farm. That’s almost
four 60-hour weeks.
University/Conservation Technology Information Center
Photos courtesy of USDA NRCS