No-Till Continues to Grow
Like others associated with no-till, Lessiter gave the credit for growth to those early adopters and the farmers who followed in their footsteps. "We gave them the ingredients, but the farmer wrote his own recipe," he said. "The thing with no-till is you can have two guys across the road from each other, each doing no-till his way, maybe one with coulters and one without. They both make it work, but neither could be successful the other way."
Lessiter noted that when Roundup Ready crops hit the market, no-till took off again. With precision ag and other tools available today and the economic benefits firmly understood, he doesn't see the trend slowing down. "When you are talking 10,000 to 20,000 acre operations, those guys don't want to make multiple trips," said Lessiter. "With a single pass, you don't want overlaps or skips of chemicals, seed or fertilizer. With precision technologies, you have controlled traffic. You can strip till in the fall, build berms and apply fertilizer and come right back to the berm in the spring."
Long-term no-till produces soil with strong aggregation and increased structure. The proliferation of fungi in the soil produces glomalin, which acts as a binder, creating soil structure. Some things don't change, like attitudes toward no-till, pointed out Lessiter. "Many machinery companies make one planter that fits any system, simply modifying it for no-till. Most don't make a planter specifically for no-till," he said. "Chemical companies and ag retailers continue to be important supporters of no-till. Syngenta has been a sponsor of our No-Tillage Conference for all 21 years and Bayer CropScience has been a sponsor for 14 years."
Lessiter is quick to recognize the role ag retailers have played, but points to more they could be doing, including sponsoring field days and plot tours. CTIC sees ag retailers as playing a pivotal role in assisting farmers who haven't made the transition to no-till.
"Ag retailers are critical in advancing the adoption of no-till systems," said Watts. "There are some excellent examples of retailers helping their customers adopt successful conservation tillage systems. However, we need more doing it. Ag retailers certainly have the expertise in soil health and biology to encourage people leaning toward no-till. I think they have more influence than they might imagine."
MAKING THE TRANSITION
Karen Scanlon, executive director, CTIC, cited a recent program funded by the USDA designed to encourage and support farmers making the transition to no-till. She said it identified important aspects of successful transitions that could be put into practice by retailers.