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Thinking about going no-till?

Jeff Caldwell 02/11/2011 @ 3:26pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Though you may see a lot more no-till fields out around the countryside (depending on your location), overall adoption is thought to be coming at a "very slow pace," according to one ag engineer.

Recent data show that, considering all the factors that go into the decision to make the switch to no-till from conventional tillage, the adoption rate may not be as slow as it appears, especially when taking crop rotations into account, says one Iowa agronomist.

Between 2001 and 2006, no-till adoption grew from 19% to just over 50%, according to a recent report from Iowa State University agronomist Mahdi Al-Kaisi. Soybean acres have seen more rapid no-till adoption because of clearer economic advantages for eliminating tillage for that crop.

"The progress made in adopting no-till is relatively slow when 70-80 percent of row crop lands are under one form or another of tillage. The tillage and crop rotation research at Iowa State University documented the lack of yield and economic advantages for soybean production under conventional tillage regardless of where in the state," Al-Kaisi says. "However, corn production is more challenging and requires additional management to have a successful no-till system."

Al-Kaisi advises considering 7 factors when deciding whether no-till's a worthwhile pursuit on your acres.

"The adoption of no-till can be valuable for managing crop production and increase the resiliency of row cropping systems in adapting to unpredictable weather changes," Al-Kaisi says. "It is also important to recognize that a successful NT system may require a diversified cropping system along with other practices such as: Cover crop, grass waterways, and filter strips to maintain soil productivity."

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