It has seemed to me that the sustainable ag community, such as it is, has
been unable to deal with no-till as a viable alternative. We like integrated
pest and weed management which seek to reduce pesticide use yet seem to be
biased against no-till as it appears to favor increased chemical use. Yet,
as Steve pointed out, there must be ways that our ideals can be achieved
with prudent use of this technology and ultimately, no-till should reduce
In western Nebraska, water is the limiting nutrient and wind erosion is a
constant problem, with subsequent removal of soil organic matter and
nutrients. No-till seems to have some promise, yet it cannot be implemented
without a diversified cropping system to help get rid of weeds. In fact,
no-till does not work in continuous or fallowed wheat production which is
the norm in this country. It requires intelligent selection of crop
sequences that work together to reduce weed populations.
I am very interested in seeing a rational discussion on "to till or not to
till" brought to the sustainable ag table. Of course, even in no-till
systems, there may be times when tillage is needed--truth is seldom found in
either extreme but somewhere in the middle.
It is ironic that I have been talking about growing legumes to be more
"sustainable" for 3 years here and it wasn't until the Monsanto
representative described "continuous cropping" and its requirement for
diversifying cropping systems that local farmer interest in legumes (outside
of the organic community) blossomed.
I would love to hear more about sustainable no-till farming systems that
have resulted in less pesticide/herbicide use over time. No-till organic
farming approaches my ideal.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln alternative crops research technician
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society western organizer
High Plains Ag Lab
3257 Rd. 109
Sidney, NE 69162
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