[Market-farming] Tillage is tillage

STEVE GILMAN stevegilman at verizon.net
Sat Feb 3 20:18:43 EST 2007

On Feb 2, 2007, at 10:34 PM, market-farming-request at lists.ibiblio.org  

> Message: 9
> Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2007 20:33:13 -0700
> From: "Tradingpost" <tradingpost at lobo.net>
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Tillage is tillage
> To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
> Message-ID: <200702022033130025.054436F1 at mail.lobo.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"
> Maybe you could explain that last line, since it seems to  
> contradict what
> you say about protecting soil structure and biology:
>> 	Of course, to reap these benefits you're going to need to use some
>> forms of tillage and cultivation...
> I just don't see the need for it. Why the cost and labor to till and
> cultivate?
> paul tradingpost at lobo.net

I suggest you take it from the top and reread the post -- the last  
line IS well explained and not at all contradictory.

To wit:
1. Farming and gardening systems that RELY on herbicides and/or  
extensive tillage and cultivation severely impact soil fertility and  
exacerbate erosion by oxidizing organic matter, wiping out  
microorganisms and destroying soil aggregation -- negatively  
affecting the ag system's sustainability. (Midwest soils that were  
some 20" deep in the 1800's, now average under 4" -- gone to global  
dust and silt in rivers and deltas.)

2. Using sod, cover crops, green manures, etc. in rotations are  
necessary to protect soil from erosion and build soil fertility.

3. If you're going to farm or garden ecologically on any scale that  
precludes heavy mulching, however, some degree of tillage/cultivation  
is necessary to open the sod and reduce weed competition to produce  
crops AND to build soil organic matter.

4. And further, heavy mulches/no-till doesn't work in colder climates  
because they keep the soil too cold to plant.

Tillage/cultivation is not "bad" per se -- it's a GOOD way to  
incorporate cover crops and build soil fertility, for example.   
Overuse of tillage, or using methods featuring a constantly open soil  
(a la herbicides) is a losing proposition, however.


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