Conservation Tillage

The educational materials listed on this page are about Conservation Tillage.

Conservation tillage reduces soil disturbance by leaving more than thirty percent of the soil surface covered with the residue of a previous crop. This crop production system improves soil conservation, reduces soil erosion and limits water runoff. Producers can choose from several different conservation tillage systems no-till, strip-till, ridge-till or zone-till—based on their individual cropping system and on the amount of residue they want to leave on the soil surface. There is also a variety of tillage equipment available for farmers and ranchers, depending on which tillage system they use. No-till farming leaves all of the previous crop’s residue on the field. Farmers who use a strip-till system only disturb the section of soil that is necessary for seeding. Strip tillage is similar to zone tillage, but the latter cuts deeper into the soil to increase water infiltration. In ridge-till systems, farmers build raised seed beds to create a warmer seedbed with better drainage. Cover crops can be added to any conservation tillage system to provide additional residue and soil cover between cash crops. 

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Cover Crops for Soil Health Workshop

All session recordings and slide presentations from this three-day professional development workshop are available online. Hosted by Northeast SARE and Delaware State University in March 2016, this event addressed the latest research on the benefits and successful management of cover crops in grain, vegetable and animal production systems.

Cornell Soil Health Assessment

The Cornell soil health assessment was created to help farmers develop appropriate management solutions to build healthy soils. Focusing on soil health helps improve productivity, reduces the need for external inputs, and increases a farm's resilience to extreme weather events.

A Practical Guide to No-Till and Cover Crops in the Mid-Atlantic

No-till and cover crops are among the most cost effective tools to reverse soil and carbon loss and improve soil health; the economic, agronomic and environmental benefits of these practices are well known within the farming community. Transitioning from conventional farming to no-till, and incorporating the use of cover crops, requires a higher level of […]

Small-scale Vegetable Operation Explores Solutions to Farming on Marginal Soils

How do small-scale farmers in rural and urban locations farm successfully on marginal soils? Jennifer Wilhelm of Fat Peach Farm in Madbury, NH conducted a Farmer Grant project to find out. Wilhelm had established no-till permanent raised beds on her one-acre mixed vegetable operation and her project investigated weed suppression, soil health and production potential […]

Beyond Black Plastic

This publication explores sustainable, organic mulches such as cover crops and no-till and reduced tillage systems as alternatives to black plastic mulch for weed control. The booklet includes a discussion of the impact of organic mulches on soil quality and fertility, weed control, yields and waste production, and profitability for small to mid-size vegetable operations. 

Tackling the Thorny Issues, Linking Practitioners

As the ranks of organic farmers swell in America, so does the need for answers to tough problems in organic agriculture. For example, how can weeds be controlled without soil-eroding tillage? How can risk be minimized? How can farmers learn from one another? Thanks to researcher/educators like Anu Rangarajan of Cornell University, new and transitioning […]