Conservation Tillage is a Sustainable Practice
The use of conservation tillage systems has multiple benefits. As the time of usage in conservation tillage systems increases, more benefits can be realized by the farmer and by the community. The use of conservation tillage systems provides economic, environmental and social benefits.
Conservation tillage systems reduce the number of trips required for farming operations in or on a field. Other benefits include reduced water usage and reduced need for fertilizers under certain conditions. For example, by using legumes as cover crops the additional nitrogen requirement will be lower and deep rooted winter cereal crops can help recycle some of the nutrients that leached below the root zone of the commercial crop. A thick cover has also been shown to suppress the emergence of weeds. Farmers and researchers have reported increased profitability from conservation tillage systems where cover crops were used. This increase in profitability usually increases as the number of years increases and the soil organic matter increases.
Conservation tillage systems work on both soil and water environments. On the soil, as the tillage decreases, soil organic matter increases which aids in increased water infiltration from precipitation or supplemental irrigation, increased soil micro and macro organisms and reduced runoff to mention a few benefits. In the water, conservation tillage systems reduce erosion which keeps sediment out of waterbodies. Under most conditions runoff is reduced except when the soil is saturated; however, even if runoff is not reduced, sediment movement is reduced. As this sediment movement is reduced, the movement of nutrients and pesticides is reduced.
Conservation tillage systems, other than the things listed above, provide a social benefit by increasing habitat for wildlife including deer, ground-nesting birds and other wildlife. The social benefits are also related to cleaner air from reduced soil movement during wind storms and cleaner water from reduced erosion.
The Whole System Benefits
- Saves soil
- Saves fuel
- Saves time
- Saves labor
- Saves machinery
- Permits timely planting
- Maintains or slightly increases yield
- Is cost-effective
- Increases soil organic matter
- Improves soil quality
- Improves water quality
- Reduces runoff
- Increases soil moisture
- Increases irrigation efficiency
- Improves wildlife habitat
- Helps ensure the quality of life for future generations
As can be seen from this list, conservation tillage systems provide many benefits to the soil, water, and the air. These benefits directly affect the farmer and his operations, but they also help society in general.