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Guest Opinions

No-till Leads to Healthier Soil, Cleaner Water

Written by Natural Resources Conservation Service Wyoming

In the minds of many, a freshly tilled field is picturesque – cleaned and ordered for the next planting. But we’ve learned from studying soil that heavy tillage isn’t good.

When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks and leaves remaining from the previous crop are chopped, disturbing the top several inches of soil. This “fluffing” action allows for better seed placement according to some, but soil scientists say not tilling leads to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other groups recommend producers to not till and leave the stalks and leaves, called residue, in place. By not tilling, soil organic matter is enhanced, increasing water infiltration and reducing erosion.

No-till is a conservation practice that leaves the crop residue undisturbed from harvest.

Any tillage causes a flush of organic matter decomposition, resulting in loss of soil carbon. Tillage also breaks up soil aggregates, which are important for water infiltration, providing oxygen to plant roots, and reducing erosion.   

Healthy soils cycle water and nutrients more efficiently.  And they function better, enabling them to buffer against extreme drought and flooding. Plus, they reduce soil loss into waterways, which can cause problems for water quality.

Good management of field residue can increase efficiency of irrigation and control erosion. No-till can be used for many crops in almost any soil and can save producers labor costs and fuel. It’s a sound investment for the environment and the farm.

If you want more information on no-till and residue management, stop by our local field office.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. Learn more at
wy.nrcs.usda.gov.