In a report released earlier this month, the Economic Research Service (ERS) reported on the growing popularity of no-till farming practices for the major crops grown in the US. Approximately 35% of U.S. cropland growing 8 major crops-barley, corn, cotton, oats, rice, sorghum, and wheat---had no-till operations in 2009.
Soybeans had the highest percentage of acres practicing no-till farming, with a projected 50% of acres with no-till practices in 2009, an increase from 45% of acres in 2006. A projected 30% of corn, the largest field crop in terms of acreage, was in no-till in 2009, an increase from 23% in 2005. Cotton was projected to reach 24% by 2009, while rice held the lowest projected no-till percentage at 12%. This data was supplied by annual cropland surveys completed by the National Resources Inventory-Conservation Effects Assessment Project and 2000-07 Agricultural Resource Management Surveys.
Tillage is a process which includes the plowing of land in order to remove weeds and prepare for seeding. According to ERS, this inadvertently results in the elimination of large amounts of carbon-sequestering organic material in the soil, which are in turn increases atmospheric C02 levels in these areas. The benefits of no-till practices are best observed over a prolonged period, and push has been underway over the past several years to shift more U.S. farmland toward more environmentally safe no-till agriculture. (By: Amos Welder, Contact: Nathan Bowen