Zero Tillage - Government of Nova Scotia

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Zero Tillage - Government of Nova Scotia

Zero TillageWhat is zero tillage?Zero tillage (also known as no-till or directseeding) is a method of plowing or tilling afield in which the soil is disturbed as little aspossible by, essentially, not plowing the field.The crop is planted directly into a seedbedwhich has not been tilled since the harvest ofthe previous crop.How extensively is zero tillage used inNova Scotia agriculture?Zero tillage is being used more every year inNova Scotia as individual farms and farmersstart to recognize its benefits, especially themoney-saving benefit. Recent periods of lessthan-normallevels of precipitation in NovaScotia have shown the importance ofincreasing the water holding capacity of soils,and therefore conserve our natural soils, whichis the goal of zero tillage practices.What are the challenges with using zerotillage?A common perception by farmers is that zerotilling doesn't work, that crop yields will belower, and that crop quality is poorer. Somepeople think a zero tilled field is lessaesthetically pleasing since the field is leftalone with plant and weed residues over itssurface, indicating the potential for increasedpesticide or herbicide costs. However, theseperceptions may be false. It takesapproximately 5 years before a real benefit canbe observed and demonstrated, and mostpeople tend to ignore benefits that aren'treadily seen. Benefits include reduced soilsalinity, which is better for plant growth, andconservation of natural soil structure. The soilstays spongy and doesn't become compacted,which is bad for plant growth.How does using zero tillage contributeto sustainable agriculture in NovaScotia?Zero tillage practices in cool climates orpoorly drained soils, such as those typical ofNova Scotia, do not reap as many benefits asin dry tropical soils. However, there are manybenefits:• Conservation of soil moisture.• Reduction of soil erosion by the windsince the crop residue cover isn't plowedunder the soil.• Reduction of farm labour (i.e. timeactually spent tilling the field, fuelconsumption) thereby reducing farmexpenses.• Increased planting and harvestingtimelines, since time spent tilling andpreparing the field isn't required.• Earthworms, and other biologicalorganisms, are left alone to live andmanipulate the soil by creating tunnels,which otherwise would be created bytilling. This allows for good movement ofwater and air throughout the soil for goodplant growth.• Reduced soil compaction. Many years oftilling lead to a very hard, densely packedsoil.• Increased soil organic matter which meansbetter soil structure and more availablenutrients for plant growth. Tilling 'burns'organic matter away.• Increasing soil organic matter, helps tosequester carbon as carbon dioxide, in thesoil which helps Canada meet the KyotoProtocol mandate by reducing agriculturalgreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.84 “Growing Nova Scotia


85 “Growing Nova Scotia

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