SF Bay Area

Park Your Plow: 5 Tips for the No-Till-Curious

No-till minimizes soil disturbance while leaving valuable cover and reducing erosion. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

Reduced erosion. Saved time and fuel. Improved nutrient cycling, soil moisture, and resiliency in the face of drought. You likely already know the potential benefits of no-till.

No-till farmers grow crops with minimal disturbance to their fields and the organisms that call them home. This builds healthier soils while reducing money spent on fuel and labor – a win-win.

With harvest season winding down, you’re no doubt making an important decision for your working land. Will you hook up the plow, or is this the year you’ll park it for good? If you’d like to try no-till, we wrote this for you.

Use these 5 tips to go from no-till-curious to no-till farmer.

1. Spread your residue during fall harvest.

Plowing isn’t the only way to prepare a field for next spring’s planting.

Evenly distribute residue that will be left in the field while harvesting your cash crop to manage against erosion and allow for a uniform breakdown of nutrients and organic matter. Residue can provide a valuable base of cover for your ground over winter.

Prepare for a successful spring planting with an even distribution of residue left over from your fall harvest. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Prepare for a successful spring planting with an even distribution of residue left over from your fall harvest. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

2. Don’t forget about cover crops.

Farmers traditionally till to break up soil and prepare seedbeds. Over time, tillage can degrade structure and create highly compacted soils that seemingly “need” to be tilled before spring planting.

Plant cool-season cover crops to reduce compaction, build organic matter, and hold your soil in place. Make sure to pick a cover crop species or mix that compliments your cash crop.

If you’re starting with a highly-compacted field, use cover crop species that are meant to break up compaction. Daikon radish is often one great option.

Daikon radish – commonly called tillage radish – can break up plow pans while adding organic matter. Photo Credit: USDA
Daikon radish – commonly called tillage radish – can break up plow pans while adding organic matter. Photo Credit: USDA

3. Choose equipment with your end-goal in mind.

Simple but critical: Plan before you buy.

Will you plant next year’s cash crop into green cover, terminated cover, or fall residue? Will you drill or broadcast your seeds?

Your operation may change over time, but establishing working goals now will keep you from buying equipment you don’t ultimately want.

Some USDA service centers have no-till drills and other equipment you can rent for minimal fees to get started. All offices are staffed with experts who’d be happy to talk through your specific management goals.

Think about how you’ll terminate your cover and plant your cash crop next spring. Using a roller crimper with a no-till drill is just one option. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Think about how you’ll terminate your cover and plant your cash crop next spring. Using a roller crimper with a no-till drill is just one option. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

4. Treat no-till adoption as a marathon, not a sprint. Track results along the way.

Building healthy, resilient soil takes time. Some farmers report yield increases after their first year of no-till, but that shouldn’t be your main goal.

You can quantify several economic benefits of switching to no-till: fuel savings, time savings, eventual fertilizer reductions. By tracking these measures along with changes in yield, you’ll gain a truer sense of the impact of no-till across your operation.

Have your soil tested at least once every four years and conduct your own informal assessments regularly. Healthy soils are full of living organisms.

Take note of the life inside of your soil, and how it changes over time. Healthy soils are generally full of earthworms and other organisms. Photo Credit: Colette Kessler, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Take note of the life inside of your soil, and how it changes over time. Healthy soils are generally full of earthworms and other organisms. Photo Credit: Colette Kessler, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

5. Give us a visit. We’re here to help.

Stop by your local service center to learn more about integrating no-till and other conservation practices into your management plan. We’re here to help you reach conservation goals that support your farm’s production needs.

Visit your local USDA service center today to get started with a conservation plan for your working land. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
Visit your local USDA service center today to get started with a conservation plan for your working land. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

Farmers across the country have reduced erosion, held valuable nutrients in-field, saved money on fuel, and increased their soil’s resiliency by minimizing tillage.

Is this the year you’ll try no-till? If so, having a strong plan in place will help you leave your plow parked for good.

Those farmers, in Ca who are already utilizing the process are convinced of the positive results of no-till farming include, increase crop production, water conservation, maximizing soil health, decreasing equipment costs and reducing the sometimes dangerously high dust levels in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.

Yolo County’s Fritz Durst, who has been using the no-till method for 20 years: ”We started in 1985 using the no-till method, and since then we’ve doubled our yield potential.” Whose farm is on the western edge of the Sacramento Valley.

Michael Crowley, who has used the no-till method on 400 acres just west of Fairfield and another 270 acres near Turlock for about 10 years, agrees. “I not only get great production, I save a great deal by not buying expensive tilling equipment, and I look to double my production in times of little rainfall because no-till increases the water-storing capacity of the soil.”

Other farmers in California need to realize the benefits of no-till and move to catch up with the rest of the nation and world.

References:

Elizabeth Creech is a public affairs specialist serving USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. She can be reached at elizabeth.creech@wdc.usda.gov

From the Ground Up – No-till farming is still a hard sell in California — despite worldwide acceptance and cleaner air“ Ken James. Jan. 12, 2016

 

cp_banner
CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


 

Actions
Nov
27
Fri
5:00 PM Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Nov 27 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the Street. @ In front of MLK Library
End Endless War Remaining silent is not an option. We can either have a culture of complicity, or a culture of resistance. With no public opposition we will have a culture of complicity. Public acts[...]
Gatherings
Nov
30
Mon
6:00 PM Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Nov 30 @ 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Description This Yoga class is a one hour practice the is meant to restore, rejuvenate and provide a restful strengthening session for the body, mind and spirit. Please wear comfortable clothing. No prior experience is[...]
Dec
17
Thu
7:00 PM Beyond the War: Migrations, The ...
Beyond the War: Migrations, The ...
Dec 17 @ 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Beyond the War: Migrations, The Red Star, and Yemeni Futurism
Join CODEPINK and Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation for a conversation with multi-media artist, Alia Ali about her installation “The Red Star”. The “Beyond the War” Yemen cultural series will attempt to showcase Yemen outside[...]

PinkBridgeDivider

 

WORLD

PinkBridgeDivider

ARTS

  • Glowing Magic Beauty a Review. March 3, 2020editorGlowing Magic Beauty a Review.
    Glowing Magic Beauty is a practical guide for developing and living a joyous life. The ...
  • Poem July 6, 2019editorPoem
    The Earth is The Only One Telling The Truth By Kelly Curry I set the table with ...
  • Book Launch Stirs Controversy. December 13, 2015editorBook Launch Stirs Controversy.
    The book launch event for EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION: AMERICAN WRITERS ON PALESTINE at the Center for Fiction on ...

PinkBridgeDivider

GREEN ECONOMY

PinkBridgeDivider

From our National Site

The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!