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No-Till Farming Gains Ground Around the World

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Since ancient times, farmers in many cultures have prepared the land for growing crops. They used plows to turn the soil in their fields. This is called tilling. Now, a method called no-till farming is gaining popularity all over the world on big and small farms.

Plows cut into the soil and lift up the remains of last season’s crops and unwanted plants. The process brings air into the soil so dead plant material breaks down quickly to form natural fertilizer.

But plowing can cause severe damage to topsoil by removing the plants that protect the soil from being blown or washed away. Plowing also can reduce the amount of water in soil.

Over the last several years, farmers have sought ways to protect soil by avoiding unneeded tilling. This has been called conservation tillage, low-till farming or no-till farming. Soybeans, wheat, corn, and cotton are crops often farmed without tilling. But many other crops can be grown this way.

No-till farming is already used in many countries. Pioneer Hi-Bred International and the Conservation Technology Information Center did a study on no-till farming. The study said the United States leads the world in the number of hectares of no-till farming.

About twenty-six million hectares of land are not tilled in the United States. There are about ninety million no-till hectares around the world. In South America, no-till farming is growing quickly, especially in Brazil and Argentina.

The agriculture magazine, Farm Journal, says South American farmers have a good reason to use no-till farming. The magazine says there are fewer government programs supporting common tilling methods.

No-till farming is less costly and improves the soil over time. It saves money because farmers do not operate farm machines to plow soil. This saves fuel, time and labor.

No-till farmers in some climates use cover crops, like alfalfa. Cover crops protect the soil when crops are not being grown.

Farm Journal says that farmers using no-till methods must understand the risks. No-till farming can result in a smaller crop some years. But over time, crops will increase because soil quality improves.

The United States Department of Agriculture supports a Web site that contains links to no-till information. You can find it at w-w-w dot n-o-hyphen-hyphen-t-i-l-l dot com.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. I’m Gwen Outen.