Sunday, May 18, 2008


"What do you think about no-till farming?"

Farmer Rob's opinion coincided with much of what I've read. He agrees that no-till is a good method to prevent soil from eroding, but the downside is that conventional no-till requires the use of large quantities of chemicals. So there's a tradeoff.

In any case, no-till farming is nothing new. Many farmers across the country have been spraying and planting for a long time. The chemicals and crops used in no-till are often specialized product systems sold by huge agribusiness companies. (If you've heard the term "Roundup Ready," that refers to crops that have been genetically modified to withstand the spraying of Roundup, which is often used on no-till fields to kill unwanted growth.)

The reason I say "conventional no-till" in a previous paragraph is because there is another method of no-till farming being experimented with more in recent years – "Organic no-till."

Organic no-till farming doesn't use chemicals. Instead, it relies on crop rotation and mechanical means (like big rollers with teeth that get pushed or pulled through a field) to clear cover crop growth and keep weeds at bay.

Other sustainability minded farmers continue to use some pesticides on their no-till fields, but far less than they would using only conventional no-till practices.

Here are a few websites that show some of the experiments and progress that have been made in this area:



Though promising, the general sense I get from my reading and conversations is that totally organic no-till farming is still very much a work in progress. Intern Tom worked for a time on a farm in Pennsylvania that experimented with organic no-till. He said the results were "weedy."