What is tilling?

Tilling is the widely adopted agricultural practice of breaking up the soil to prep the land for planting new seeds by uprooting weeds, aerating the soil and incorporating fertilizer or compost.  

When herbicides became a thing, tilling was shoved aside. So, no-till may just mean using more herbicides. Or it can be part of a regenerative farming effort. Emphasis on *part*, as no-till by itself is not enough.

What is the problem with tilling?

It disturbs soil life, the worms and the mycelium networks. And it releases carbon dioxide, adding to our climate woes.

What is the point in adopting no-till practices?

To retain carbon in the soil. Gaining in popularity, no-till practices have been adopted in various forms with different outcomes. Some farmers apply these practices on some of their land, or just less frequently than before = “minimal-tilling”.

What external influences affect the decision to till or not to till?

The weather, for example. In a rainy year, farmers may resort to tilling to air out their land. In dry years, no-till makes sense to retain moisture. 

  • Or herbicide resistance ? no-till. 
  • Or financial incentives ? till. 

There are so many factors influencing this decision and it would be too simple to look at tilling as an isolated practice. Therefore, deep understanding of soil biology is crucial.