Interesting discussion regarding new ways to plant and fertilize:

The most popular fuel-reducing strategy involves a radically new way of planting seeds. Instead of breaking up the ground with a plow to plant seeds, no-till farming leaves the remains of last year’s crop on the surface. Drills punch through this mat of vegetation and insert seeds into the ground.

Ditching the plow can cut fuel consumption by as much as half, bringing substantial savings. It also reduces the need for expensive fertilizer. Specialized machinery can inject fertilizer along with the seeds, putting just enough right where developing crops need it most.

Those savings help explain why farmers have been moving to no-till, and why even more will as the cost of oil rises. But the side benefit of this shift will be alleviating a problem that’s been plaguing humanity for thousands of years.

Plowing removes plant cover, and bare fields erode 10 to 100 times faster than shielded soil, far faster than nature can make more. Overplowing has stripped whole regions bare and helped bring down past civilizations. Parts of Syria that were extensively farmed in Roman times are now bare, rocky slopes, for instance, and in southern Greece you can still find ancient agricultural tools scattered on hillsides that can no longer support cultivation.



Three Cheers for Expensive Oil
WSJ, October 15, 2012

Category: Energy, Food and Drink

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

16 Responses to “No Till Farming Practices”

  1. Moe says:

    Has Monsanto signed off on this????????????

  2. doug says:

    Not “New”.

    In 1951, K.C. Barrons, J.H. Davidson and C.D. Fitzgerald of the Dow Chemical Co., reported on the successful application of no- tillage techniques. In the 1960s M.A. Sprague, in New Jersey, reported on pasture renovation using chemicals as a substitute for tillage.

    Maybe new to NY City boy?

  3. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    There have been farmers using no-till in Iowa since the mid 1970′s but it didn’t start to really catch on (in Iowa) until the 1980′s. One factor that is generally considered a “downside” is the reliance on chemicals for weed and insect control, and more recently, the genetically altered crops (Roundup ready soybeans, etc…).

    All in all, it’s a good thing. No-till and reduced tillage systems are what allows a farmer to cover 3,000 acres (or more) to prepare, spray, plant, harvest. The average farm size in the “good old days” was barely over 100 acres.

  4. Peter Tubbs says:

    I grew up on an Iowa farm that dabbled in No Till in the 70′s and 80′s. It is successful in the ways described in the article, but economics have held it back. There is usually a yield penalty that can be larger than the production costs saved.

    The biggest progress in land stewardship in American farming is the end of fall plowing (a full turning of the soil). It resulted in tremendous erosion with no yield benefit.

    Introducing No Till practices to developing agricultural areas, whose practices have remained unchanged for centuries, can both save the soil and increase yields. But without hard ROI numbers I suspect this will be the job of NGOs rather than the private sector.

  5. wally says:

    That map shows much of Iowa as very degraded soil. All I can say is: Huh????

  6. CSF says:

    No till has been the standard for Midwest farmers for some time.

  7. whskyjack says:

    As was pointed out Notill has been around for some time. It does reduce erosion. when first started it required a large bunch of chemicals for weed control. First you spray the field with roundup to kill all the weeds. then you plant and then you apply more weed killer one for broad leaf and one to control grasses.

    The development of roundup resistant crops with notill gave a reduction in the chemical load for the environment and also erosion control.
    Monsanto the environmentalists friend

  8. spooz says:

    Sounds great, except that the necessity of using herbicides for weed control has contributed to the development of superweeds requiring more toxic herbicides to leach into our water supplies.

    whskyjack, you need to read up on the more recent news in the world of Big Ag:

    “Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude ofincreases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. “”

  9. catman says:

    If this is news you havent been reading Jeremy Grantham lately.


    BR: Oh, but I have. And there is a difference between “News” and “Newsworthy”

  10. Tim says:

    Soils of pastured fields which are by nature no till, remain pristine, even after 100++ years of cultivation, and can be drill-seeded without significant loss of soil nutrients. Those kinds of farmlands are an excellent long-term investment.

  11. johnl says:

    Moe, Monsanto lives and breathes this stuff. Bing, Round up ready or google it if that’s your thing.

  12. ottnott says:

    Grow grass and let animals eat it in the pasture instead of growing grain and shipping the grain and the animals to massive feedlots.

    Grass farmers don’t need to till and don’t need to spray herbicides.

  13. dsawy says:

    Kind of humorous that they show the Rocky Mountains as “very degraded.” Well, the people who have never farmed in the Rockies might think so, but the truth is that high mountain valley soils are relatively frigid, late to warm above 55F during the growing season and are very low in organic content as a result of natural conditions. Complaining about erosion in the Rockies is pretty funny, because if one looks around even a little bit, one sees that erosion was happening on a grand scale before humans got here.

    The only thing that makes no-till economically possible today is herbicides. Want to see serious tillage? Go look at an organic operation.

    Overall, this is yet more of the same sort of stuff written by people with credentials and no experience that I find highly annoying. Real farmers have known about no-till for decades, and the number of no-till drills sold in the US is the easiest way to measure the uptake of no-till technology.

  14. formerlawyer says:

    Deserification is not the spread of deserts but rather the ongoing soil degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas (Drylands) resulting from climatic variations and human activities such as agriculture. Approximatley 36% of the worlds surface are Drylands (plus 12% classed as hyper-arid sand deserts).

    Drylands exist on every continent except Antarctica and in 100 countries and 34.7% of the worlds population in 2000 lived in Drylands of which 90% live in the developing world

    Approximately 10% to 20% of Drylands are subject to desertification as a result of human activities and the remainder is considered to be at risk of desertification.

  15. dream-king says:

    It would have been nice if the article had included relative yield declines and specific positive elements tracked over time, even if it’s just talked about a few sample areas and crops.

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