The Pros and Cons of No-Till Farming

So you are thinking of making a change but want to weigh your options? Well here is the bottom line.


  • Reducing fuel, labor, and equipment costs are the biggest benefits of not doing any tillage. The price of diesel alone is something to consider.  That’s also fewer hours on a tractor meaning more value at trade-in time, and less wear and tear on tillage tools.
  • Improved soil structure is another big benefit.  Tillage disrupts the natural structure of soil and disperses some of the carbon that it needs into the air.  No Till means you are keeping more of the nutrients your soil desperately needs right where it belongs
  • Erosion can be reduced by leaving more residue on the surface in the months when there are no crops growing.  Allowing the rain or melting snow to not run off, but instead work its way down into your soil bringing beneficial nutrients into it.
  • Minimizing the compaction of your soil.  Soil gets compacted any time equipment drives over the surface.  This means the air and water pockets present in soil that allow for the movement of water, crop roots, and soil organisms get squeezed out by the weight of the equipment.   Since no-till reduces the amount of equipment used, the threat of compaction is reduced.  


  • With no-till a farmer has lost the ability to mechanically control weeds through tillage.  
  • There is a risk of carrying over plant diseases when crop residue is not incorporated into the soil after harvest.  This can act as a host for disease and can infect the following crop.  However, farmers can combat this situation by rotating crops that are not susceptible to the same diseases.
  • It takes time to see the benefits of no-till.  One can’t take a farm that has been tilled for 50 years or more and hope to see big gains in yield after one season.  Patience is important.  Soil needs time to regain structure, and that doesn’t happen overnight.  

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