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The Start of No-Till Farming
By Margaret M. Zeigler, Executive Director
World Soil Day: Part I
This blog is the first in a two part series about the importance of soil and the practice of no-till/minimum tillage.
Some 52 year ago, a Kentucky farmer, Harry Young Jr. planted the nation’s first commercial no-till crop. He planted an acre of corn, and worked closely with the late Shirley Phillips, a specialist in field crops from the University of Kentucky, to refine the practices and advance the no-till movement. No-till agriculture is now one of the major agricultural advances of the past century, contributing to improved agricultural productivity and sustainability.
Harry Young and Shirley Phillips experimented with different systems of planting, and believed that no-till was better for labor, machine efficiency and soil conservation. No-till helps reduce erosion, improving the quality of soil and increases in organic soil matter. It also can reduce the expenses and time with agricultural production and improve farmer profits. No-till, when combined with conservation agriculture practices, helps conserve natural resources and adapt to climate changes such as increasing temperature and reduced rainfall.
No-till planting has benefitted from modern crop protection products such as herbicides for weed control, reducing the need for as much plowing and soil disruption. Reductions in soil plowing also conserve release of carbon from the soil, thereby helping to sequester more carbon.
No-tillage has also benefitted from specialized machinery designed for planting. Today, most major farm machinery manufacturers supply special types of no-till equipment that directly places seeds in soil with minimum disturbance.
Word about the new successful practices reached farmers in South America, particularly those from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Today these farmers in South America practice widespread no-till cultivation and are global leaders in the practice. Of the 110 million hectares in no-tillage worldwide, approximately half are in Latin American countries, and of these, 25 million hectares are in Brazil with nearly 20 million in Argentina.
AAPRESID (The Asociación Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa, or Argentine Association of No-Till Producers) is a nongovernmental nonprofit organization with a network of farmers and a mission to disseminate and promote no-till systems that optimize productivity while conserving the soil. Founded over 25 years ago, AAPRESID has 30 regional groups in eight Argentine provinces. Under this framework, the organization has developed a quality management system of no-till agriculture.
Our upcoming blog will delve more deeply into the mission and work of AAPRESID and its member farmers in advancing sustainable agriculture in the Southern American region and around the world.
Stay Tuned! Follow @AAPRESID on Twitter and use hashtags #DiaMundialDelSuelo and #WorldSoilDay.