Zero tillage farming, alternatively referred to as no-till farming, is gaining increasing popularity among farmers in the United States and across the globe.
Thus, this blog covers both the advantages and disadvantages of zero tillage.
Farmers give it a read to have a clear understanding of whether your fields require such tillage or not. Before proceeding let’s initiate with the definition of zero tillage, this will help you in having a clear understanding of the topic.
Learn: The Importance of tillage for Farmers
What is Zero Tillage
Zero tillage is a farming approach used to cultivate crops without disturbing the soil through tillage methods. This is the type of tillage method in which seeds are directly sown into the soil without disturbing it even a little.
Advantages of Zero Tillage
- No-till farming is a sustainable agricultural practice that tends to increase carbon sequestration and lessen carbon dioxide emissions. With it, minimal disturbance of the soil occurs during planting and cultivation, preserving soil structure and organic matter.
- This practice leads to higher carbon sequestration decreased decomposition of organic matter, resulting in less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
- By forming a protective layer on the soil surface, often consisting of crop residues or remaining plant materials, this technique helps to conserve soil moisture. This covering acts as a shield, guarding the soil against direct sunlight and wind exposure, which are significant factors leading to the evaporation of moisture.
- No-Till helps maintain a layer of organic residue on the soil surface. This residue acts as a natural insulation, regulating soil temperature by reducing heat absorption and evaporation.
- This practice promotes soil well-being. When plant foliage undergoes natural decomposition, a variety of life forms appear within and on the soil, enhancing increased biodiversity and enriching the presence of flora and fauna.
- Usually, you’d have to do a lot of digging and preparing the soil before planting. But with zero tillage, you can skip all that digging. This saves your time and effort. You can even plant one crop right after another without waiting too long.
- It reduces soil erosion resulting from tillage in specific soil types, particularly in sandy and dry soils situated on sloped landscapes.
- Keeping the soil undisturbed keeps its inherent structure and composition intact, leading to enhanced water infiltration.
- It helps the soil stay healthy by maintaining its organic matter.
- Zero tillage farming encourages the preservation of crop residues on the surface of the field. This organic layer acts as a valuable nourishment for soil microorganisms. Consequently, the soil’s microbial community thrives, resulting in heightened microbial engagement.
- Farmers adopting no-till methods can experience substantial cost savings in terms of reduced fuel consumption, machinery operation, and labor hours.
- Saves a significant amount of planting time by preventing soil from drying out too quickly. This results in both time and money saved.
- Reduced crop growth time can result in earlier harvests, leading to increased yields.
Disadvantages of Zero Tillage
Using direct drilling, where the soil isn’t turned before planting, has a downside. It relies more on weed-killing chemicals because regular harrowing isn’t done to control weeds. This can harm the environment by adding more chemicals to the soil and nearby areas.
Kelly Tillage is inclined towards the mechanical weed control method. It presents a cost-effective disc designed for weed management.
A range of Kelly Discs can be used to help in the battle of controlling weeds, such as the CL2 Disc Chain, CL1 Disc Chain, and the Spiked Disc Chain. Our distinctive Disc Chain technology can effectively remove established weeds, depositing them on the surface to die.
Our special Disc Chain technology can pull out weeds and leave them on the surface to dry out and die. That’s not all though – the shallow scarifying action of the Disc Chains stimulates weed seeds to germinate.
By ensuring that seasonal weeds all sprout at the same time before planting, a Kelly pass can massively improve the effectiveness of a one-time herbicide application.
- As in no-till farming, minimum tillage is not practiced. This can lead to the creation of gullies, which are deep pathways in the field formed due to the erosion caused by water. Since the soil isn’t smoothened through harrowing, these gullies have the potential to become even deeper as time goes on.
- In this type of tillage burning excess residue is an occasional practice. This burning process, aimed at field preparation, can lead to pollution as it releases harmful substances into the air.
- This method includes unfamiliar practices for weed control, residue management, and pest prevention. Therefore, this learning curve can be a hurdle for farmers, requiring significant time, effort, and resources for education and training.
Two Basic Methods of No-Till Farming
It is the method of placing seeds on the soil’s surface instead of planting them at a specific depth. Rather than creating furrows or holes for each seed, surface seeding involves scattering or broadcasting the seeds evenly over the soil’s surface and then lightly covering them with a thin layer of soil, mulch, or other organic material.
In simple terms, it means putting seeds directly in the field so they can sprout and grow. Instead of starting the seeds indoors and moving young plants, this method is often used in farming to start crops without requiring a separate nursery or transplanting process.
Adoption Across the World and the USA?
Since the early 1970s, no-till farming has experienced significant expansion in the United States. Initially implemented on just 3.3 million acres, the practice has expanded remarkably. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, zero-till techniques were applied to 104 million acres in 2017. Present projections suggest that by 2021, the acreage dedicated to no-till farming will have reached 110 million acres.
Australia is a leader in using a farming method called “no-till.” They have around 56.7 million acres of land where they do farming this way, which is about 67% of their total farming land. This helps farmers grow crops better, especially in dry areas.
In conclusion, zero tillage presents a promising set of advantages, including improved soil conservation, enhanced water retention, and carbon sequestration.
It offers time and labor savings while fostering biodiversity. However, it comes with challenges, such as managing weeds and pests effectively, addressing potential disease risks, and managing crop residues skillfully.
The decision to adopt zero tillage should be based on a careful assessment of local conditions and being ready to deal with its good and bad sides. It is important to make sure farming stays sustainable.