By all means, no-till makes good sense


Spring truly has sprung and planting here in northeast Ohio is full-steam ahead. After what seemed like a never-ending winter, the longer daylight, work-laden hours are a refreshing change.

Around my home farm and in my travels here in Mahoning County, I have seen a lot of no-till planting getting done and for good reason.

There have been countless articles written in regards to the benefits of no-till farming. All with great information about why the practice is really helping farmers and their conservation of their top two commodities, soil and water.

Strong evidence

Agronomists have compiled numerous fact sheets with endless amounts of scientific data that consistently endorses the practice. Yield increase, fertilizer reduction and increased microbial health are just a few of the topics that are investigated and experimented.

All this information is fantastic; knowledge is king.

With a degree in biology, a minor in chemistry and physics, I have an appreciation for all the science that goes into producing this data. However, as a farmer, at the end of the day, I use certain practices because they work and help me reduce my overhead.

Conservationists have shown time and time again that no-till farming is helping with reducing soil erosion. In fact, in many cases that reduction is measured in terms of tons of soil saved.

Crop residue that is left on the top of soil physically aids erosive soil to stay put.

As that residue breaks down it increases organic matter within the soil. With every percent increase of organic matter in the soil, it can hold approximately 20,000 more gallons of water per acre.

Soil is more immobilized and water is metered out of fields at a slower rate.

Numbers that work

Ag business managers produce massive amounts of details in regards of profit margins in the agriculture industry through a plethora of equations. Every year there is a release of custom rate sheets that lists rates to rent and or hire certain jobs out on the farm.

One such detail is the average cost of production for just about any crop planted. All this priceless information boiled down shows about a $15 savings per acre using no-till seeding.

As a very small business owner I have an appreciation that there is a direct savings to utilizing no-till farming.

Cost of equipment can be an obstacle that keeps people from trying no-till farming, but there are alternatives.

There are several custom planters out there. Cost savings of not tilling the ground could pay for that service easily.

Also, many Soil and Water Conservation Districts, including Mahoning County, rent out no-till drills at a very reasonable rate.

Contact your local county SWCD to inquire about rental opportunities. As a MSWCD employee, I would like to help you with your seeding needs by renting you our drill. However, as a farmer at the end of the day I use certain practices because they work and help me reduce my overhead.

The bottom line

As I keep reiterating myself, I see a trend. I realize I have embraced no-till seeding because it works and helps me reduce my overhead!

It works in the way it keeps precious fertile topsoil on my fields and makes it more draught hearty. By being able to seed crops without tillage reduces my input cost. I do own my own drill, but have found it profitable to rent my county’s drill for certain applications.

In the last decade, I have realized there is a learning curve in implementing no-till farming. There must be management changes to get full benefits of the practice.

I am by no means an expert, but do know that no-till seeding has helped my farm be more productive.

Please use all the above resources to increase your operation’s productivity and profitability. There are fantastic agronomists, conservationists and agricultural business managers available who can help you make sound, profitable and sustainable decisions for your farm.


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Todd Miller is a graduate of Youngstown State University with a degree in biology. He was a science teacher for Columbiana Career Technical Center prior to becoming the district technician at Mahoning SWCD. He and his family currently farm over 200 acres where they raise beef cattle for production and consumption, and he is the past president of the Columbiana Mahoning Trumbull County Cattleman’s Association. Miller can be reached at 330-740-7995, or by email at



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