So how exactly do these farmers plant without
plowing? Most use “no-till” planters, which are designed to slice through plant
residues from previous harvests, while minimizing soil disturbance as they plant the seeds for
their crops. Here’s how it works…
Pulled by a tractor, a no-till planter uses thin rotating disks to make a narrow slice
through plant residue and into the soil. Next, a tube places the seed at an appropriate depth
in the soil while a second wheel gently presses or “firms” the seed into the soil to ensure
proper seed-to-soil contact. Once the seed is placed, and covered, “presto,” we’re
ready to grow—with very little disturbance to the soil or to the organisms that reside
there! And here are some of the other benefits of
no-till… • Farmers reduce labor, fuel, and machinery
costs and they also improve how well soils function.
• Fewer tillage passes prevent compaction and surface crusting of soil, making it easier
for plants to sprout and grow deep roots. • No-till farming reduces erosion by leaving
plant residue on the soil surface, which protects the soil from the damaging impacts of rain
drops and the wind. • Since there is no plowing with no-till,
much less airborne dust is created—which helps everyone breathe easier.
• Crop residue left on the soil surface from no-till also limits evaporation, conserving
water for plant growth. • That crop residue is also a source of
carbon, the essential energy source for living organisms that make up the soil food web.
• No-tilled fields often have more beneficial insects and earth worms, and a larger, better
balanced microbial community that can even resist disease outbreaks.
• Those organisms increase the soil’s organic matter content and build soil structure—Aggregates
are like a house with walls and rooms! – It’s a city down there!
• Soil in no-till systems with better “rooms” or pores absorbs and stores more water and
plants are able to grow their roots deeper into the soil to get to that water. This means
that farmers can prevent floods, and grow crops that survive droughts.