The 3 Types of Soil Tillage

1. Conventional tillage

Some farmers use machines like a plow or disc to turn over and loosen the soil after harvest (a process called tillage). This can leave the soil exposed to rain and wind, which can sometimes lead to erosion (wearing away) of the topsoil that is needed to grow a crop.

Conventional Tillage

A conventionally tilled field

2. Conservation tillage

This is a technique for planting seed that minimizes the disruption of soil and therefore helps prevent soil erosion. Farmers use special equipment to plant seeds, leaving most of the residues (e.g. stalks) of the previous crop intact. Planting in this way allows the crop residue to break down, which adds organic matter (like composting) while protecting the soil from erosion.

3. No-till

No-till works in the same way as conservation tillage, but there is less disruption of soil (e.g. the planter does not go as deep into the soil to plant the seeds, and no crop residue is turned over.)73  No-till practices are used in 56.4 per cent of all area prepared for seed in Canada.74

A no-till field

A no-till field

More Facts on Conservation/No-till agriculture75

No-till farming can reduce soil erosion by 90 to 95 per cent or more compared to conventional tillage practices and continuous no-till can make the soil more resistant to erosion over time. Studies have shown that soil under no-till agriculture sequestered on average 29 per cent more carbon than soil under conventional tillage.