[Market-farming] Tillage is tillage

STEVE GILMAN stevegilman at verizon.net
Wed Feb 7 08:57:54 EST 2007

Hi Brigette,

	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  
sees farm
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  
some of
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  
for is
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  
well as
necessary, for Humans to greatly enhance what nature can do on 'her'  


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