Take a Systems Approach to No-Till to Improve Soil Health

No-Till Legend Paul Jasa has been studying conservation tillage — and no-till in particular — since 1981 for the University of Nebraska. Decades later, he’s convinced parking the plow is only the first step to unlocking the many benefits of a system that will improve farm productivity by building soil structure and enhancing soil biology

Jasa, an ag engineer, recalls a mid-June trip to western Nebraska that saw an overnight thunderstorm drop 6 inches of rain in the area.

“I was out taking pictures of a field the next morning when a farmer drives up and asked what I was doing,” Jasa says. “I asked him how much rain he got during the night. Frustrated, he exclaimed, ‘6 inches. Worthless rain. Came so fast it crusted my field and washed out my terraces. When am I going to be able to get back in there to till and replant? Worthless rain!’”

Meanwhile, the no-till field across the road showed only minimal water behind the roadside terrace, his crop was not disturbed, and a moisture rod revealed a full moisture profile down to 6 feet raising grain sorghum.

“The no-tiller told me it was the best rain he had in ages,” Jasa says. “Same rain. And only a road and management differences separated the two fields.”

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • No-till’s value lies in residue and the residue’s ability to protect the soil surface from sun, wind and the impact of rainfall.
  • Having residue to protect the soil surface helps build up soil…