October 29, 2021

Why You Should Consider the No-Till Farming Technique

Think twice before reaching down to pull that weed from your garden bed- it’s likely doing more good than you think. What we're referring to is no-till farming, which is an agricultural technique that can help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

photo courtesy of Jason Johnson, NRCS Iowa

How the No-Till Farming Method Works

To keep it simple, the no-till method avoids disrupting the soil by using tools like a chisel plow or no-till drill to plant seeds, which increases carbon sequestration and helps prevent erosion.

We want our soils to be capturing and holding carbon- it's well and good to be carbon neutral, but what about all the carbon dioxide already produced? Plants absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, where they break it down into carbon and mix that carbon with water to create glucose.

Some of the glucose feeds the plant while the rest is secreted through the roots into the soil. These below-ground stores of carbon are released when the soil is broken up (like in tilling) or is disrupted. The no-till technique, however, allows the carbon to remain in place and is even improved by the addition of organic matter.

The no-till method also reduces erosion as it minimizes disturbance of soil on a field that would normally be tilled.

No-Till Saves on Time, Gas and Cost

A study from the United States Department of Agriculture found that the continuous no-till practice uses less than two gallons of diesel fuel per acre, compared to the six gallons of diesel fuel per acre used by continuous conventional till practice. This amounts to a savings difference of nearly 282 million gallons of diesel for farmers across the nation when using continuous no-till practice.

This also leads to reducing the number of passes over farm land and saves dozens of hours in work- which is crucial especially during harvest season, which is already time and labor-intensive

This is not to mention that the no-till farming method requires less trips over a field during planting season (a.k.a. also helping disturb less soil!) By reducing the number of passes over the fields farmers will be able to save on labor costs, time (which could mean spending more time with family and friends!) and equipment maintenance.

No-Till Also Improves Soil Health

No-till reduces soil compaction which can help improve crop yields in addition to make post-harvesting tasks much easier for farmers. Reduced soil compaction will also increase the water holding capacity in the field which will help with healthy crops and soil. Having a low water holding capacity will lead to problems such as soil erosion, low soil biological activity, and decreased soil organic matter.

If you have any experience using no-tilling practices on your farm, we'd love to hear more from you!