Increase Your Bottom Line by Switching to No-Till

January 03, 2024  |  By Seth Spire, ForGround by Bayer Sustainable Systems Agronomist

We know that no-till is great for the health of our soils and for long-term sustainable agriculture. What we probably don’t talk about enough is how no-till farming can also increase profit margins. In a time when inputs are constantly increasing and commodity prices are always fluctuating, there are ways a grower can improve their bottom line. One of those ways is converting to no-till farming.

No-till farming can save money in several ways:

  1. Reduced Tillage Operations: No-till farming involves minimal or no mechanical soil disturbance compared to conventional tillage practices such as disking, cultivating, harrowing, vertical tilling, and many others. Traditional tillage operations require tractors and other equipment to till the soil, which consumes significant amounts of fuel. No-till farming either eliminates or greatly reduces the need for these fuel-intensive operations. It’s right in the name: no-till means “no tillage.”

  1. Less Equipment Usage: No-till farming typically requires fewer passes with heavy machinery through fields, reducing the overall wear and tear on equipment. This means lower maintenance and repair costs for farm machinery, as well as longer equipment lifespans. Fewer passes also translate to less fuel consumption and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

  1. Soil Conservation: No-till farming helps improve soil structure and organic matter content over time, making the soil more resilient and less prone to erosion. In contrast, conventional tillage can lead to soil erosion that damages the topsoil and requires additional fuel-intensive operations like terracing, regrading, and reseeding to combat. By reducing erosion, no-till farming saves both fuel and the costs associated with erosion control tactics. Some no-till farming systems may incorporate additional conservation practices like planting cover crops, which can further enhance fuel savings by reducing the need for chemical inputs and excessive field operations.

  1. Improved Soil Health: No-till farming promotes healthier soil ecosystems with more beneficial microorganisms and earthworms. Healthy soils can enhance nutrient availability to crops, potentially reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. The production and application of synthetic fertilizers involve energy-intensive processes, so reducing their use can save fuel-related costs as well.

  1. Time Efficiency: No-till farming can be more time efficient compared to conventional tillage, as it involves fewer operations and less downtime associated with changing equipment or tilling the soil. This increased time efficiency can translate to reduced labor costs and less fuel consumption. When considering no-till farming, ask yourself, “What is my time worth?”

A recent report from USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) estimated a reasonable fuel savings of 3.6 gallon/acre for a grower who converted to continuous no-till farming. Considering how often fuel prices fluctuate—often increasing instead of decreasing—a grower could save up to $17/acre* just by transitioning from conventional tillage to no-till. (1) Fuel saving calculations will constantly change, but there is no doubt of the potential money to be saved by making the switch! Based on this example, a grower that has a 1,000-acre row-crop operation could save up to $17,000/year just by switching to continuous no-till.

It's important to note that the extent of fuel cost savings with no-till farming can vary depending on factors such as the specific crop being grown, local climate and soil conditions, and the type of equipment being used. While no-till farming offers potential fuel savings, it may also require adjustments in management practices and the use of different equipment, which can involve initial costs or changes in approach. Always complete your own cost-benefit analysis to better understand how these changes can benefit your overall operation.

*An average of $4.75/gallon of diesel was used for example purposes only. When calculating potential fuel savings, be sure to use up-to-date fuel prices.

References: (1) Creech, E. (2022, November 21), Save Money on Fuel with No-Till Farming, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Natural Resources Inventory and Assessment. Retrieved from Save Money on Fuel with No-Till Farming |