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Conservation tillage is dominant U.S. practice

Over a 10-year period, conservation tillage became the most popular tillage practice on U.S. cropland, used on two-thirds of the land, said a USDA agency on Thursday. The Natural Resources Conservation Service said the practice, which leaves crop residue on at least 30% of the soil surface to reduce erosion, had been adopted on 53.4 million acres by the mid-2010s.

“More than 41.5 million acres of the total increase was in continuous no-till, which reached 33% of all cultivated cropland,” said the NRCS, which compared data collected 10 years apart for its Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

Cover crops were used on nearly 19 million acres, according to the second round of data, “although still accounting for about 6% of total cultivated cropland,” the agency said.

The use of precision technology also became more commonplace. So-called variable-rate fertilizer technology was used on 16% of cultivated cropland, four times the rate in the mid-2000s.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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