Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: October 18, 2007
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Citation: Teasdale, J.R. 2007. Strategies for soil conservation in no-tillage and organic farming systems. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society. 62:144-147.
Interpretive Summary: No-tillage cropping systems are known to provide many benefits to soils that can enhance production of grain crops. Organic farmers share many of the same goals for building soil organic matter, fertility, and the capacity for supporting soil biological activity and productivity as no-tillage farmers. Some have speculated that conventional no-tillage agriculture may provide superior soil improvement and potential environmental benefits compared to organic farming because of the tillage requirement of organic farming. There is a need for long-term research to assess the relative merits of conventional no-tillage agriculture compared to organic farming. In response to this need, a long-term experiment, the Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Project (SADP), was initiated at Beltsville, Maryland, to compare selected no-tillage grain cropping systems and a reduced-tillage organic system on a sloping, droughty site typical of the mid-Atlantic piedmont. Results of this research suggest that organic farming systems can provide greater long-term soil improvement than conventional no-tillage systems, despite the use of tillage in organic systems. This research also demonstrates, however, that the soil-building benefits of organic farming may not be realized because of difficulty controlling weeds in organic systems, particularly, reduced-tillage organic systems. Alternately, results of this systems experiment suggest that conventional no-tillage systems could benefit from additional organic inputs and/or perennial rotational crops to improve the sustainability of these systems. This research will be of interest to both organic and no-tillage growers and agricultural professionals supporting these farmers.