[Market-farming] Tillage is tillage
stevegilman at verizon.net
Wed Feb 7 08:57:54 EST 2007
Your plant-into-stubble no-till system sounds great! So does your
commitment to using alternatives to pesticides (on your web site).
I'm mostly familiar with northeast no-till operations, where
herbicides are always a major part of the operation -- to kill kill
the cover crop to plant into, as well as to control weed growth. Up
here (zone 5) it's used mostly by some dairy farmers who have made an
investment in the heavy-duty planters, etc. the system requires. I've
also been to field days further south in PA. Steve Groff has done a
lot with no-till vegetables -- but again using herbicides. Strip till
and ridge till are also used in these parts to address the cold soils
issue, using some pretty heavy duty soil-moving machinery. The other
issue is weed control -- I'd be interested in the efficacy of your
system. While wheat stubble may be dense enough to preclude weed
growth, around here, anyway, corn or soybean residues amounts to a
pretty thin cover sometimes.
And yes, no till/conservation tillage has been used by conventional
farmers for decades and especially compared to conventional chemical
row cropping systems it works to better protect the soil from
erosion, retain nutrients and, as you say, to save trips over the
field and prevent compaction. By and large the no till system is
completely integrated with herbicides, however, as the recommended
best management practice from land grant universities across the
country. Work by the Rodale Institute and others on organic no till
mechanical-kill methods for organic farmers is showing great promise
as an alternative.
The "saving the planet" quote you object to comes directly from the
likes of Dennis and Alex Avery, propagandists (and organic-bashers)
disguised as objective science writers employed by the agribusiness-
supported Hudson Institute. Dennis, the father, is the author of
"Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic" and other screeds,
while his son Alex is following in his employment footsteps.
Regarding tillage overall, I think David Ingles emphasis on
promoting soil life puts things into the correct perspective:
"The [far less common, even amongst Organic Farmers ] approach that
practices as primarily providing enhanced conditions for soil life, the
activities of which create the necessary tilth and productivity and the
approach that attempts to create tilth and productivity directly. My
is that only the first of these has a future.
Within this first choice there are a whole range of possibilities
which include tillage not only because it suits our needs but because it
suits the needs of the life of the soil. I find this is objected to most
strongly by those of a philosophical bent that the best we can hope
to approximate 'nature'. Ironically this is often the most strident
'environmentalists'. It is my contention that despite our historically
negative relationship to land stewardship it is in fact possible, as
necessary, for Humans to greatly enhance what nature can do on 'her'
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