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No-Till Agriculture And Nitrate Pollution

According to the ISDA, 67 percent of soybean acres and 58 percent of corn acres in Indiana were left un-tilled in the fall of 2016.

Photo: United Soybean Board (Flickr)

According to the ISDA, 67 percent of soybean acres and 58 percent of corn acres in Indiana were left un-tilled in the fall of 2016.

No-till agriculture is a method of farming where crops are grown year-to-year without disturbing or tilling the soil.

While traditional tilling is effective to control weeds, it reduces the farm’s long-term productivity by breaking up organic matter and natural clods in the soil. Preserving the soil with the no-till method helps to retain water and keep the soil fertile.

However, a recent IUPUI study found the no-till method is not effective in preventing nitrate leaching, a common cause of water pollution.

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists will discussed the benefits of no-till agriculture and the pitfalls of water pollution.

Lixin Wang is an assistant professor at IUPUI in the Department of Earth Sciences and co-author of the no-till agriculture study.

Through a meta-analysis of available data on no-till agriculture, he and his colleagues found that the no-till method alone was not sufficient at preventing nitrogen pollution in water runoff or nitrate leaching.

“But there are exceptions,” Wang says. “We found that we divided climate regions into dry land and non-dry land, we found that in dry land, no-till is pretty good at reducing nitrogen loss.”

Jordan Seger is the Director of the Division of Soil Conservation at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. He says Indiana is on the leading edge of soil conservation in agriculture, and no-till farming is a big part of that.

Seger says Indiana has been measuring no-till adoption since 1990 and found that there’s been a 466 percent increase in no-till acres in Indiana.

“We really think that goes back to the conservation ethics, the environmental stewardship ethics of the Indiana farmer,” Seger says.

Guests:

Jordan Seger: Director of the Division of Soil Conservation, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Lixin Wang: Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at IUPUI

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