The USDA is promoting this month as No-Till November
By Diego Flammini
The federal ag department is encouraging farmers to refrain from fall tillage to improve soil quality.
The USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is promoting this month as No-Till November, which mimics No Shave November, where participants postpone shaving to raise awareness about cancer.
The message behind the no-till campaign is that undisturbed soil is healthier soil.
“No-till farming is a cornerstone soil health conservation practice, which also promotes water quality while saving farmers time and money,” Kurt Simon, an NRCS conservationist from Iowa, said in a statement.
Agronomists agree that no-till farming can have multiple benefits.
“No-till farming allows water to infiltrate the soil, which means there’s less water running off,’ Eileen Kladivko, an agronomy professor at Purdue University, told Farms.com. “You can protect the soil from temperature changes, and many farmers see yield increases as soil improves.”
Practicing no till in the fall could mean some equipment adjustments in the spring.
Farmers should adjust their machinery accordingly, said Michael McDonald, a no-till cash crop producer from Palmyra, Neb.
“You want to have a machine that can make a slit into the soil and have the least amount of soil disturbance with the best possible seed-to-soil contact,” he said. “When you open that soil, you release carbon and you never get that carbon back. I want carbon above and below ground.”
Farmers considering making the switch to no till will need to practice patience before seeing results.
“It’s like changing your diet – you won’t notice anything overnight,” McDonald said. “It could take four or five years on a farm to build up microbial activity because the soil wouldn’t be used to the shock of not being disturbed.”
Farmers are participating in the campaign by posting photos of their fields on social media using the hashtag #NoTillNovember.