1. To London: Conventional tillage does indeed have tremendous
potential for environmental damage. One need only look to the gullied
Southern states in the first half of the century or to the infamous dust
bowl, or the ongoing devestation in China etc.. Soil erosion is neither
modest nor temporary (in human life terms) in many circumstances. Not
all farms are blessed with rich, loamy soils, on nearly flat fields.
And I agree, there are probably other tillage methods that would work
for those type of farms. However, much of our productive farm land is
rolling and it is not practical or economical to suggest that row crop
farmers should just pick up and move to the flat, flat land of loamy
I do agree wholeheartedly that rotations are healthy for soils and crops
alike. Monoculture is a bane on agriculture. However I disagree on
using fallow land in a rotation except in unusual circumstances. Land
that is farmed around here is much too expensive to lay idle, and much
too rolling (read erosive) to be fallow tilled during the growing
season. Use of cover crops, rotation with grass, and rotation of crop
species are much more practical.
I am not familiar with the tillage tool that you described. However I
do remember seeing a demonstration of a "para plow" a few years ago that
I thought had promise, but haven't heard much of since. The para plow
went nearly as deep as a subsoil shank, but had "wings" at the base that
lifted and fractured the soil above. Very narrow surface tillage, with
similar efffects to breaking up the plow layer of soil with a
conventional plow, as well as improving the tilth of the upper subsoil.
Good tool when used with reduced tillage systems, it seemed.
2. To Clark: I think I understand your thread that instead of
growing annual row crops for beef that we should grow beef on grass
instead. Point taken, although I've eaten both grass fed and grain
finished beef, and much prefer grain fed. However, please remember that
not all annual row crops are grown for (non-human) animal consumption.
Besides many food products, annual crops such as soybeans and cotton
provide material for other uses for instance. Row crops would continue
to be a major portion of agriculture, even if never another grain was
fed to a single cow.
Also, I would tend to not accept at face value any statement that
conventional tillage does better during dry weather than no-till,
without knowing the circumstance. It sounds like it might be more in
the line of an exception to the rule, rather than the rule.
And lastly (whew!) if land is being drained with tiles, then why would
anyone need to use no-till? Reduced tillage, or even ridge tillage
maybe, but no-till is especially useful on rolling lands to stop soil
erosion. Fields with subsurface tiling shouldn't have water erosion
While I do not ascertain that no-till is the final word in
environmentaly sound farming, I will not throw it out just because there
are some chemicals used. Keep up the debate folks, and lets hear from
some others besides London, Clark, or myself!
Son of Richard
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