Core Principle 1: Part 1 - Core 4 Principles
Principle 1: Conservation TillageConservation tillage practices are used in crop production to reduce negative effects on soil, water, and air quality. The three primary conservation tillage practices are designed to limit tilling requirements while maintaining a crop residue on the soil surface.
- No-till/Strip-till are similar systems that can be described as managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year round, while planting crops in narrow slots or tilled strips in previously undisturbed soil. No-till is defined by NRCS as leaving all residue on the soil surface and disturbing no more than 10 percent of the soil surface while planting.
- Mulch-till systems manage crop residue on the soil surface year round, while growing crops where the entire soil surface is tilled prior to or during the planting operation. Residue is partially incorporated using chisels, sweeps, field cultivators, or similar farming implements. Mulch-till is defined as leaving 30 percent crop residue cover after planting.
- Ridge-till systems manage crop residue on the soil surface year round, while growing crops on pre-formed ridges alternated with furrows protected by crop residue.
Although each of the residue management practices can have favorable impacts on soil, water, and air quality, they can vary in the degree of this impact. The benefits are gradually being accepted by the farming community, resulting in increased implementation of conservation tillage in the United States.