No-till drills — saving money while protecting the environment

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Have you ever used a no-till drill on your farm? Have you thought about it, but decided the traditional method of plowing and planting into bare soil is the only way to go?

What if I told you no-till drills are an essential tool for anyone looking to improve their soils, save money, and operate their farm in an environmentally friendly manner?

How’s it work?

So, what exactly is a no-till drill? Well, it’s just what it sounds like. It’s a planter that allows for placement of one’s seeds in the ground without having to drastically disturb the topsoil beforehand.

It is important to know that a no-till drill can be used by itself, but is best suited to use with a full no-till operation.

No-till is by no means a new concept. No-till drills have actually been around for more than 40 years. Slowly but surely, this method of planting is becoming more popular amongst growers, and for good reason.

Benefits

The no-till method is based upon the principle of minimal soil disturbance which has many benefits to the soil and to ones bottom line. The benefits of switching to a no-till planting system far outweigh those of traditional tillage methods. And it feels great to be a good steward of the land that will someday belong to our children.

• Increased profit and efficiency. Some of the more quantifiable benefits of a no-till system include increased efficiency and reductions in fuel quantity, labor and machinery costs.

It’s not hard to see how removing several passes over a field can save money on fuel and labor.

Tillage equipment can often be reduced or eliminated as most no-till farmers only need a drill sprayer, and combine. These reductions ultimately lead to increased profit and a more efficient use of time.

There can be added costs associated with no-till such as herbicides used to kill off vegetation before planting; however these costs are outweighed by the savings in fuel, labor and machinery.

• Benefits to soil. One of the best things about no-till farming, from a conservationist’s perspective, is the undeniable positive impact it has on the soil.

Saving soil

Reduced compaction, reduced soil erosion, increased organic matter, improved soil structure and better infiltration are just a few of the positive attributes associated with no-till.

The USDA-NRCS lists no-till farming as a best management practice because of its environmentally friendly nature.

• Taking the leap. Making the switch from conventional till to a no-till operation can be very tricky, and requires a lot more than just using a no-till drill. The switch can affect your crop rotations, manure handling, weed management, soil fertility and harvesting among other things.

Transition

The best way to make the transition is to start small and work your way into it slowly. It is always better to learn from the mistakes or successes of others when possible.

Attending workshops and field days is always encouraged, as the information disseminated at these events will be very helpful when planning the future of an operation.

Conclusion

A no-till drill can be one the most valuable tools on the farm if it is utilized in conjunction with a proper system. Adopting this method will increase efficiency, boost profitability and improve your environmental stewardship.

Farmers with small and large operations are benefiting from implementing no-till cropping systems.

Rental

Many counties’ soil and water conservation districts have drill rental programs that allow residents to use the drills on a pay-per-acre basis. This is a great way to give no-till a try without having to buy a drill.

About the Author

Tom Kistler is a natural resources technician with the Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a 2012 graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in Conservation. He can be reached at 330-627-9852. More Stories by Thomas Kistler

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