No Till farming

Notill farming is a method of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage. This eliminates the need for tractors and large agricultural equipment that invariably leads to the destruction of the microbial life in soil and compacting.

  • Studies have found that no-till farming can be more profitable than conventional farming which is more often than not dependent on high input costs.
  • Less tillage of the soil reduces labour, fuel, irrigation and machinery costs.
  • No-till can increase yield because of higher water infiltration and storage capacity, and less erosion.
  • Another benefit of no-till is that because of the higher water content, instead of leaving a field it can make economic sense to plant another crop instead.
  • No-till farming can increase organic matter in the soil

raised beds in a no-till garden

Management

No-till farming requires some different skills to achieve success. As with any production system, if no-till isn’t done correctly, yields can drop. A combination of technique, equipment, crop rotation, fertilization, and irrigation have to be used for local conditions.

Cover crops

Cover Crops are in no-till farming to help control weeds and increase nutrients in the soil by using nitrogen fixing plants or by using plants with long roots to pull mobile nutrients back up to the surface from lower layers of the soil.

 

Organic no-till

Some farmers who prefer to pursue an organic management practice often rely on the use of normal, non-dyed corrugated cardboard for use on seed-beds and vegetable areas. Used correctly, cardboard placed on a specific area can

  1. keep important fungal hyphae and microorganisms in the soil intact
  2. prevent recurring weeds from popping up
  3. increase residual nitrogen and plant nutrients by top-composting plant residues and
  4. Create valuable topsoil that is well suited for next year’s seeds or transplants.

The plant residues (left over plant matter originating from cover crops, grass clippings, original plant life etc.) will rot while underneath the cardboard so long as it remains sufficiently moist. This rotting attracts worms and other beneficial microorganisms to the site of decomposition, and over a series of a few seasons will create a layer of rich topsoil. Plants can then be direct seeded into the soil or holes can be cut into the cardboard to allow for transplantation. Using this method in conjunction with other sustainable practices such as composting/vermicomposting, cover crops and rotations are often considered beneficial to both land and those who take from it.

Water issues

No-till farming dramatically reduces the amount of erosion in a field. A problem that occurs in some fields is water saturation in soils. Switching to no-till farming will correct the drainage the because of the qualities of soil under continuous no-till include a higher water infiltration rate.