To till or not to till? Understanding the pros and cons of tillage practices on your farm

Farm tillage is a catch-22 process: when you over-use tillage equipment on your farm, it can lead to soil disruption which could cause the soil structure to become infertile. But, if you don’t till your soil, you’re looking at unhealthy, dirty crops and soil erosion. One of the key advantages of tillage is less soil erosion, which is a big enough reason to till your soil in the beginning stages of your crop planting process.

No-tillage farming is a practice where the soil is minimally disturbed during the planting and harvesting process. When you plant your crops, holes are drilled into the soil where the seed is planted and then covered up. This method leaves ground surface intact, along with the residues from the previous crop harvest. Depending on your production size, there are many pros and cons of no-tillage farming:

Pros:

You’ll strengthen your crops: Tillage is important when there are weeds involved. Without getting rid of those weeds, you could face a weed and pest infestation which could cost you a harvest. Over time, you’ll learn to become clever with your crop planting. You can do this by covering the ground with mulch bags to keep weed seeds from spreading. When you cover your crops with mulch, it keeps the soil moist without becoming muddy. This will also provide shade to the soil and a habitat for good pests.

You’ll run machinery less often: The initial stages of crop development require you to till your soil, but over time you won’t need to use make use of tillage equipment as often. By not using your machine, it will save you plenty of money on fuel costs and time. When you mix your soil and revitalise the oxygen in the soil, you’ll start preventing erosion and guarantee healthy crops all year round.

You’ll save water: Once you’ve tilled your soil, it will leave a residue on the land which helps to reduce the evaporation of soil moisture. This also means that it will reduce the water runoff, keeping the soil moist for crop feeding. Especially for regions experiencing weather conditions such as drought, tilling the soil allows farmers to save on water in the long-term as you won’t need to irrigate those areas as often.

Your soil microbial will increase: When your soil is healthy, the organic microbes in the soil start to grow. By not disrupting your soil every few weeks, you’re giving your soil the opportunity to establish a healthy microbial community underground that regulates itself. The nutrients, water and carbon held in the soil will also benefit the health of your soil, and then, of course, help your crops grow healthily.

Cons:

You won’t get all the soil benefits: While it may seem like you will experience the benefits from tilling your soil often, you’re not giving your soil enough time to develop healthy microbial for your crops. While leaving it for long periods of time is recommended, the risk you take is worse if you leave your soil for months without attention. The bare soil will warm up faster which will then lead to soil erosion.

You’ll spend money on crop cover: When you keep covering up your crops, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the mulch bags add up. In the beginning, you might overdo it, but over time you will eventually learn the right amounts that you need to support your crops from weeds and pests.

You’ll need new equipment: Since you’ll just be leaving your crops to attend to themselves, you might need to find yourself some quality equipment to cut through the weeds, spray the pests and filter the soil. Either way, you don’t know what the result could be, so try and be prepared for any outcome.

Final words:

What works for other people’s farms might not work for yours. There are so many farming tips you need to take into consideration when deciding on your planting and harvesting processes, and the type of soil you have will be the biggest contributing factor. Before you decide for or against a specific practice, do your research and test your soil. Climate conditions also play a major role in the outcome of any crop, so speak to professionals and make sure you have a clear understanding of your needs.

As a result of environmental factors or poor crop maintenance, both decisions can be costly for your business, so do not base your farming decisions solely on the cost of the farm equipment you need to do the job. It’s about what will provide your business with the best possible outcome for your produce.