No Till Farming

If you are interested, you might want to look at the article on no till farming in the July Scientific American (page 70, I think). It is mostly an industrial approach but the article finishes by saying that the problems with industrial no till farming (pests and weeds that arise from monoculture farming and the increasing amounts of agrichemicals needed to suppress them) can be addressed with organic farming approaches of crop rotation, interplanting, and the grazing of animals on the land. The more things change . . .
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Billy
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The article does indeed start on page 70. I have subscribed to that magazine for many years. That will be one article I will read. But is this really new news? No-Till talk has been around for years has it not? I have not read this months mag yet.
It is getting harder and harder to find time to read these days. The more people that get laid off, the more work gets piled on me.
Enjoy Life ... Dan
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Does refuting the industrial farming model pushed by Monsanto constitute news?
For decades now, since WWII, agribusiness has propagandized that modern chemicals and equipment could better feed the world. That lie is slowly coming apart. As you will see, industrial no-till was introduced to combat the erosion and loss of top soil. But industrial no-till relies on expensive chemical inputs of fertilizers and increasing quantities of chemical remedies to combat pests (vegetative and insect problems) inherent in repeated planting of monocultures in the same place (Additionally this affects soil cohesion, as as microflora and fauna are killed.). The answer? Introduction of "organic farming practices such as crop rotation to prevent pests from establishing themselves, and reducing the eco-degrading in-puts of pesticides. Interplanting of pulses or "companion" crops. Using the land to grow animals which in turn fertilize the land with manure (see excerpt from "Omnivore's Dilemma" below). The net result is greater total out-put from the land, fewer costly inputs, and improved human and ecological health.
This response is based on the article and "The fatal harvest reader : the tragedy of industrial agriculture" / edited by Andrew Kimbrell. I found no disagreement between the two sources. ------
"Omnivore's Dilemma" p. 126
"Grass," so understood, is the foundation of the intricate food chain Salatin has assembled at Polyface, where a half dozen different animal species are raised together in an intensive rotational dance on the theme of symbiosis. Salatin is the choreographer and the grasses are his verdurous stage; the dance has made Polyface one of the most productive and influential alternative farms in America.
Though it was only the third week of June, the pasture beneath me had already seen several rotational turns. Before being cut earlier in the week for the hay that would feed the farm's animals through the winter, it had been grazed twice by beef cattle, which after each day-long stay had been succeeded by several hundred laying hens. They'd arrived by Eggmobile, a ramshackle portable henhouse designed and built by Salatin. Why chickens? "Because that's how it works in nature," Salatin explained. "Birds follow and clean up after herbivores." And so during their turn in the pasture, the hens had performed several ecological services for the cattle as well as the grass: They'd picked the tasty grubs and fly larvae out of the cowpats, in the process spreading the manure and eliminating parasites. (This is what Joel has in mind when he says the animals do the work around here; the hens are his "sanitation crew," the reason his cattle have no need of chemical parasiticides.) And while they were at it, nibbling on the short cattle-clipped grasses they like best, the chickens applied a few thousand pounds of nitrogen to the pasture-and produced several thousand uncommonly rich and tasty eggs. After a few week's rest, the pasture will be grazed again, each steer turning these lush grasses into beef at the rate of two or three pounds a day.
By the end of the season Salatin's grasses will have been transformed by his animals into some 40,000 pounds of beef, 30,000 pounds of pork, 10,000 broilers, 1,200 turkeys, 1,000 rabbits, and 35,000 dozen eggs. This is an astounding cornucopia of food to draw from a hundred acres of pasture, yet what is perhaps still more astonishing is the fact that this pasture will be in no way diminished by the process-in fact, it will be the better for it, lusher, more fertile, even springier underfoot (this thanks to the increased earthworm traffic). Salatin's audacious bet is that feeding ourselves from nature need not be a zero-sum proposition, one in which if there is more for us at the end of the season then there must be less for nature-less topsoil, less fertility, less life. He's betting, in other words, on a very different proposition, one that looks an awful lot like the proverbially unattainable free lunch.
And none of it happens without the grass. In fact, the first time I met Salatin he'd insisted that even before I-met any of his animals, I get down on my belly in this very pasture to make the acquaintance of the less charismatic species his farm was nurturing that, in turn, were nurturing his farm. Taking the ant's-eye view, he ticked off the census of a single square foot of pasture: orchard grass, foxtail, a couple of different fescues, bluegrass, and timothy. Then he cataloged the legumes-red clover and white, plus lupines-and finally the forbs, broad-leaved species like plantain, dandelion, and Queen Anne's Lace. And those were just the plants, the species occupying the surface along with a handful of itinerant insects; below decks and out of sight tunneled earthworms (knowable by their castled mounds of rich castings), pocket gophers, woodchucks, and burrowing insects, all making their dim way through an unseen wilderness of bacteria, phages, eelish nematodes, shrimpy rotifers, and miles upon miles of mycelium, the underground filaments of fungi. We think of the grasses as the basis of this food chain, yet behind, or beneath, the grassland stands the soil, that inconceivably complex community of the living and the dead. Because a healthy soil digests the dead to nourish the living, Salatin calls it the earth's stomach.
But it is upon the grass, mediator of soil and sun, that the human gaze has always tended to settle, and not just our gaze, either. A great many animals, too, are drawn to grass, which partly accounts for our own deep attraction to it: We come here to eat the animals that ate the grass that we (lacking rumens) can't eat ourselves. "All flesh is grass." The Old Testament's earthy equation reflects a pastoral culture's appreciation of the food chain that sustained it, though the hunter-gatherers living on the African savanna thousands of years earlier would have understood the flesh-grass connection just as well. It's only in our own time, after we began raising our food animals on grain in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (following the dubious new equation, All flesh is corn), that our ancient engagement with grass could be overlooked.

The articles are short so I leave the magazine in the bathroom;o)

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Billy
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All True, I stand corrected ... again :)
The greater and more words against agribusiness and their chemicals the better. "Scientific American", "Omnivore's Dilemma" and others like Billy continues the good work towards the truth :)
Enjoy Life and Independence Day ... Dan
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Viva la revolucion
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Billy
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As you will see, industrial no-till was introduced

I think your post is a bit too broad in it's scope.
You might be interested to read up on P.A. Yeomans and his farming methods ie keyline. He was a broadacre farmer who really understood how to conserve and in fact improve his land with some mechanical tillage (of sorts)
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Thanks for bringing P. A. Yeomans to my attention. I'll be sure to read more http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010125yeomans/010125toc.html
How ya going? I trust you're in your usual good mood;o)
In what way did you find my comments too broad? From the quote fro my post, I can only presume that you felt that my commenting on in-puts was going beyond the discussion of no-till gardening/farming. In truth the article, itself, broached this subject, so if there are any thrashing to be meted out, I would direct you to the authors of the article. My humble self, am only the messenger.
You won't go all narkie on me, will you, if I ask what you see as the application of P. A. Yeomans principals to gardening? I really haven't read much yet. It seems as if he wanted to address the needs of soil organisms, which fits onto organic gardening, and that his principle efforts were in acquiring sufficient moisture for the soil. As I said, I haven't read much yet and I may have horribly misconscrewed everything. I would appreciate your take. If you care to give it.
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Since I don't have access to the Scientific American, I can't comment on how effective your extrapolation from the article is.
However, it occurs to me that there are more than one way of doing something called "no till" when it applies to an industrial (aka farming) situation. Fukuoka would be one that you would know (although to both of us, his small patch of land would be a tad on the small size to be considered a farm, but then it is one for Japan). He certainly wasn't into increasing fert. or pesticide use.
I didn't know if you knew of Yeomans so thought you might be interested. He is 'different' in his approach to farming and although his keyline may not exactly be no till, it is certainly minimal (if that) till. I thought he would be an example where using a tractor to improve soil fertility and to minimise use of chemicals may interest you.

Without having read it, would it be about the same as the Scientific American article?
I figure all research/comment about soil/soil life/biota/plant life etc etc, should have some applicability to gardening but how much would depend upon the reader and their degree of interest. You and I might get excited about earthworms and fallen leaves and others might just see them as being a source of holes in their immaculate lawn or rubbish spoiling the immacualte greenness of their lawn.
I really

Yep. That is central to his work and given the situation in Oz (dry and ancient soils with low humus levels and lacking in phosphates) some of his work has had dramatic results.

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You be the judge (as if it could be anyother way;-) This is the pertinent, last half of the article. ------
Extract form July, 2008, Scientific American
No-Till: the Quiet Revolution By David R Huggins and John P Reganold
Pg. 70
Betting the Farm
No-till and other conservation till systems can work in a wide range of climate, soils, and geographic areas. Continuous no-till is applicable to most crops, with the notable exceptions of wetland rice and root crops, such as potatoes. Yet in 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, farmers were practicing no-till on only 236 million acres world wide - not even 7 percent of total global cropland.
Of the top five countries with areas under no-till, the U.S. ranks first followed by Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia. About 85 percent of this no-till land lies North and South America. In the US roughly 41 percent of all planted cropland was farmed using conservation tillage systems in 2004, compared with 26 percent in 1990. Most of that growth came from expanded adoption of no-till, which more than tripled in that time, to the point where it was practiced on 22 percent of U.S. farmland. This no doubt partly reflects the fact that U.S. farmers are encouraged to meet the definition of conservation tillage to participate in government subsidy and other programs. In South America, adoption of no-till farming has been relatively rapid as a result coordinated efforts by university agricultural-extensions educators and local farm communities to develop viable no-till cropping systems tailored to their particular needs.
On the other hand, adoption rates are low in Europe, Africa and most parts of Asia Embracing no-till has been especially difficult in developing countries in Africa and Asia because farmers there often use the crop residues for fuel, animal feed and other purposes. Furthermore, the specialized seeders required for sowing crops and the herbicides needed for weed control may not be available or can be prohibitively expensive for growers in these parts of the world. Meanwhile, in Europe, an absence of government policies promoting no-till, along with elevated restrictions on pesticides (including herbicides), among other variables, leaves farmers with little incentive to adopt this approach.
Changing from tillage-based farming to no-till is not easy. The difficulty of the transition, together with the common perception that no-till incurs a greater risk of crop failure or lower net returns than conventional agriculture, has seriously hindered more widespread adoption of this approach. Although farmers accept that agriculture is not a fail-safe profession, they will hesitate to adopt a new farming practice if the risk of failure is greater than in conventional practice. Because no-till is a radical departure from other farming practices, growers making the switch to no-till experience a steep learning curve. In addition to the demands of different field practices, the conversion has profound impacts on farm soils and fields. Different pest species can arise with the shift from tillage-based agriculture to no-till, for instance. And the kinds of weeds and crop diseases can change. For example, the elevated moisture levels associated with no-till can promote soil-borne fungal diseases that tillage previously kept in check. Indeed, the discovery of new crop diseases has sometimes accompanied the shift to no-till.
Some of the changes that follow from no-till can take years or even decades to unfold, and farmers need to remain vigilant and adaptable to new, sometimes unexpected, situations, such as those that arise from shifts in soil and residue conditions or fertilizer management. During this transition, there is a real risk of reduced yields and even failed crops. In the Palouse (farm in Washington State), for example, some farmers who attempted no-till in the l98Os are no longer in business. Consequently, farmers looking to switch to no-till should initially limit the converted acreage to 10 to 15 percent of their total farm.
Farmers who are new to no-till techniques often visit successful operations and form local or regional support groups, where they share experiences and discuss specific problems. But the advice they receive in areas with limited no-till adoption can be incomplete or contradictory, and gaps in knowledge, experience or technology can have potentially disastrous outcomes. If the perception that no-till is riskier than conventional techniques develops in a farming community, banks may not underwrite a no-till farmer's loan. Alternatively, growers who are leasing land may find that the owners are opposed to no-till because of fears that they will not get paid as much. Improving the quality of information exchange among farmers, universities, agribusinesses and government agencies will no doubt go a long way toward overcoming these obstacles.
Yet even in the hands of a seasoned no-till farmer, the system has drawbacks. No-till crop production on fine-textured, poorly drained soils can be particularly problematic, often resulting in decreased yields. Yields of no-till corn, for instance, are often reduced by 5 to 10 percent on these kinds of soils, compared with yields with conventional tillage, particularly in northern regions. And because the crop residue blocks the sun's rays from warming the earth to the same degree as occurs with conventional tillage, soil temperatures are colder in the spring, which can slow seed germination and curtail the early growth of warm-season crops, such as corn, in northern latitudes.
In the first four to six years, no-till demands the use of extra nitrogen fertilizer to meet the nutritional requirements of some crops, too-up to 20 percent more than is used in conventional tillage systems-because increasing organic matter at the surface immobilizes nutrients, including nitrogen. And in the absence of tillage, farmers depend more heavily on herbicides to keep weeds at bay. Herbicide-resistant weeds are already becoming more common on no-till farms. The continued practice of no-till is therefore highly dependent on the development of new herbicide formulations and other weed management options. Cost aside, greater reliance on agrichemicals may adversely affect non-target species or contaminate air, water and soil. Integrating No-Till
No-till has the potential to deliver a host of benefits that are increasingly desirable in a world facing population growth, environmental degradation, rising energy costs and climate change, among other daunting challenges. But no-till is not a cure-all; such a thing doesn't exist in agriculture. Rather it is part of larger, evolving vision of sustainable agriculture, in which a diversity of farming methods from no-till to organic-and combinations there of-is considered healthy. We think that ultimately all farmers should integrate conservation tillage, and no-till if feasible, on their farms.
Future no-till farming will need to employ more diverse pest and weed management strategies, including biological, physical and chemical measures to lessen the threat of pesticide resistance. Practices from successful organic farming systems may be instructive in that regard. One such technique, crop rotation-in which farmers grow a series of different crops in the same space in sequential seasons-is already helping no-till's war on pests and weeds by helping to break up the weed, pest and disease cycles that arise when one species is continuously grown.
To that end, the capacity to grow a diverse selection of economically viable crops would advance no-till farming and make it more appealing to farmers. But the current emphasis on corn to produce ethanol in the Midwestern Corn Belt, for instance, is promoting monoculture-in which a single crop, such as corn, is grown over a wide area and replanted every year-and will likely make no-till farming more difficult in this region. Experts continue to debate the merits of growing fuel on farmland, but if we decide to proceed with bio-fuel crops, we will need to consider using no-till with crop rotation to produce them sustainability. Development of alternative crops for bio-energy production on marginal lands, including perennials such as switchgrass, could complement and promote no-till farming, as would perennial grain food crops currently under development [see "future Farming: A Return to Roots?" by Jerry 1). Glover, Cindy M. Cox and John P. Reganold; Scientific American, August 2007].
Today, three decades after first attempting no-till on his Palouse farm, John Aeschliman uses the system on 100 percent of his land. His adoption of no-till has followed a gradual, cautious path that has helped minimize his risk of reduced yields and net returns. Consequently, he is one of many farmers, large and small, who is reaping the rewards of no-till farming and helping agriculture evolve toward sustainability.
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Thanks for that Billy. It was interesting to read it. They are interpreting No Till in quite a limited way. Fukuoka wouldn't fit their definition.
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wrote:

Hmmmm......thanks for the reference, Fran. Just when one thinks he will retire for a bit, some bloody bastard comes along and loads his plate with another serving......I'll never catch up with all my reading and studies!!!!
I trust your travels were rewarding?
Care Charlie
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<Charlie> wrote in message

:-)) Us bloody bastards love to give other bloody bastards homework.

Fabulous! Cambodia was rather distressing though. I came back energised and grateful for being born in a rich western country. I've been hauling major quantities of horse poop for the garden and making major inroads against winter weeds of which there are many. I should have paid more attention to certain parts of the garden over summer and done some major mulching and maintenance - I'm paying for my sloth now (but enjoying it). (One tip - never, ever fly Vietnam Airlines - walk, swim or use a donkey in preference - I wouldn't recommend that airline to people I hate).
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