Home / Cases / No-till farming also known direct drilling or zero tillage

No-till farming also known direct drilling or zero tillage

Tillage refers to the preparation of land prior to growing crops. The act of tillage is still relevant in agricultural activities today. It gives a way of growing pasture from season to season without disturbing the soil via tillage. The success of no-till methods has kept farmers aware of several or multiple options that they have. Research shows that no-till method of farming eliminates or reduces soil erosion, increases the amount of life in the soil and it improves the soil the soil biological fertility – which makes the soil more resilient.

No-till farming basically refers to the elimination of conventional farming methods of ploughing, compacting, eroding and degrading a piece of land, or gardens and at times community gardens by use of machines.

Converting to a no-till farm maybe better than purchasing an already done no-till drill and planter. There are quite a number of issues to be looked into before converting to no-till. These concerns are:-

  • Surface roughness;
  • Soil pH; and
  • Deep compaction.

If the soil in your farm shows the need for lime, add it before the last tillage operation. The tillage will then distribute the lime throughout the plough layer. Lime is then added to the surface after starting the no-till system; it will then take years before it moves through the plough layer. Application of lime ensures that optimal pH level is maintained.

The surface of the farm then needs to be smooth. Uneven surfaces should be ironed out. Otherwise, it will result in uneven seed depth and different stand. Moreover, planting through the pile of residue has the same effects or results.

It is critical to consider deep compaction before no-till farming. If you think that there is deep compaction due to rutting or heavy traffic, be sure to use a soil penetrometer to check and identify the depth of the compacted layer. Deep tillage should be recommended so as to break-up the compaction. This will allow the roots to move freely through the soil profile. Deep-rooted plants should be rotated to prevent new compact layers from forming.

Another factor to consider is where in to start in your rotation. For instance, no-till corn after fall-killed hay is quite a good place to start at. This is because soil structure improved when the field was in the hay. Small grains could be easily be planted into soybean residue, or corn silage. These low residue levels of the crops make it for a starter to be successful. It is the easiest path for a no-till startup, then gradually add the remaining crops. Each year add an additional no-till crop until you are fully a no-till farmer. Switch slowly because with anything new, experimentation is required to figure out set up works best for your soil type and your farm at large.

If you genuinely wish to begin no-till faming, start educating yourself slowly. That is an important part that should not be ignored. Also talk to experts and people or farmers who are already doing it. Attend workshops and field days if you find some. In order to switch successfully to a no-till method, you need to plan ahead. So plan early.

Summary – Easy Steps to follow when setting up

1)   Make sure you maintain the Soil Covered. Keep residue on top of the soil surface so as to protect the soil from the raindrops impact, wind, or maybe intense heat. At high temperatures, you are not saving water at all, and everything you are growing will die.

2)   Do not Disturb the Soil. Some beneficial fungi or bacteria are always present in healthy soils but will always be destroyed during tillage. Each small decline in organic matter at the top six inches of the soil means there is a loss of 1,500-1,700 pounds of nitrogen per acre that is lost.

3)   Feed Soil Biology. Make sure that soil organisms have enough food to sustain themselves when crops are being raised.

4)   Mimic Mother Nature. Planting a monoculture of crops is not healthy. Rotate so that the system resembles a natural process and setting.

5)   You can consider livestock as well.



No-till farming is a natural way of preserving the environment. Tilling may damage and expose earthworms and other beneficial organisms. Moreover, tilling release carbon-dioxide into the air while no-tilling farming decrease emissions of carbon-dioxide.


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