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Should I Till or No-till?

We want to help you decide if you should till or no-till.

First some background.

Plowing has been around for thousands of years.

This “Tilling” process turns over the upper soil layer, brings nutrients to the surface, buries the previous years’ crop residue, and kills weeds.

This basic concept of prepping the soil continues to this day using the moldboard plow, disc ripper, disc chisel, and chisel plow.

From the late 1940s through the early 1950s, farmers relied on tilling. Soon thereafter, farmers began to use chemicals such as borax and arsenic trioxide to control weed germination and growth.

Starting in 1945, the herbicide 2,4-D was used to kill most broadleaf weeds. More powerful herbicides followed, including Paraquat and Dalapan.

Since then, no-till farming has taken hold. No-till farming uses an air seeder or air drill to punch through the surface residue and deposit the seed at a pre-determined depth. Air seeders are often 55’ to 60’ wide and can cover 200 acres a day at speeds of 5-6 mph.

Air seeders typically fold up for transport. Air drills, on the other hand, are generally smaller, and to make up that reduced coverage productivity, they must operate at increased ground speeds. Air drills are fixed and heavier, requiring more horsepower to pull, and because of their configuration, are harder to maneuver.

No-till farming does away with the damage done to soil by tilling.

So far, we have presented till vs. no-till, with the former being a mechanically biocidal method of weed control, and the later replacing the plows and discs with chemicals.

What is the cost of till vs. no-till? After all, a farmer must be able to profitably process and bring their crop to market.

Based on studies, it appears that even if the crop yields remain the same, no-till will be less costly due to reduced runtime hours on equipment and associated manpower requirements.

For example, tillage is a multi-step process. It begins with a primary till (deeper) and several subsequent secondary (shallower) passes. Each requires tractor(s) and tillage equipment. Every pass burns fuel and takes labor.