The philosophy of no-till

No-Till is a combination of key components that improve soil quality, water use efficiency and crop yields. These components include minimum soil disturbance, full residue retention, permanent soil cover and diverse crop rotations. High quality no-till is required to deliver the full agronomic, economic and biological benefits. No-Till reaches its greatest efficiency in a ‘maintenance phase’ which can take 20 years to achieve.

No-Till evolution scale1

Initial Phase:
In the initial phase (0-5 years) the soil starts rebuilding aggregates and measurable changes in the carbon content of the soil are not expected. Crop residues are low and N needs to be added to the system.

Transition Phase:
In the transition phase (5-10 years) an increase in soil density is observed. The amount of crop residues as well as carbon and phosphorus content start to increase.

Consolidation Phase:
In the consolidation phase (10-20 years) higher amounts of crop residues as well as higher carbon contents are achieved, and a higher cation exchange capacity and water holding capacity is measured. Greater nutrient cycling is observed.

Maintenance Phase:
It is only in the maintenance phase (>20 years) that the ideal situation with the maximum benefits for the soil is achieved and less fertiliser is needed.

Any tillage performed in the phases 2-4 means a return to the initial phase. Growers that till the soil once in a while will never see the full benefits of the system. Growers practicing a no-till system without full stubble retention (eg. Letting sheep graze the paddocks, baling/and or selling the residues and/or burning the residues) will probably never leave the initial phase. It has been suggested that those using a tyne machine, even when practising no-till with full stubble retention, will only ever reach the transition phase.

Practising adequate crop rotations and using covers once in a while will help reach the maintenance phase.

What benefits does no-till farming have over traditional farming methods?

No-till or reduced-tillage farming is more sustainable and productive in the longer term. While early results might not be immediate, the long-term benefits of no-till and zero-till farming in terms of improved soil health and higher crop yields makes it a more profitable option for running your cropping business. If you’re looking to implement no-till or  zero-tillage farming into your farming operation you can find more information on the advantages of no-till farming here.

What’s the difference between full-tillage farming and no-till farming?

Full-tillage farming is the conventional approach to farming and involves cultivating the topsoil prior to sowing new crops. This can require many passes to totally break down the soil to create a soil bed for sowing.

No-till farming involves one pass over the soil with minimal soil being disturbed.

No-till farming systems with other definitions are explained further on our website.

What is controlled-traffic farming?

Controlled-traffic farming creates permanent wheel tracks separate from your cropping zone to reduce the area of soil compacted by machinery. If you’re a farmer in Victoria considering adopting controlled-traffic farming methods into your cropping business then Vic No-Till can help you. Controlled-traffic farming ties in well with the zero-till farming approach, and you can read more about this on our news page.

As a farmer in Victoria, what’s the best way to get involved in no-till farming?

Join the Vic No-Till association for a great range of member benefits, including admission to our regular farming events across Victoria. As a member you will find we’re a great resource, having access to inspiring farmers with a wealth of knowledge from their on farm trials, errors and successes with no-till, zero-till farming, controlled traffic farming, and cover cropping.