Even before Harry Young plowed his first corn crops in 1962, researchers were exploring the benefits of no-till and its potential impact on the future of agriculture.
Some of the earliest research on direct seeding began in the 1950s, according to From Maverick to Mainstream: A History of No-Till Farming. Researchers successfully cultivated wheat, oats, flax, soybeans, and corn in 1953. Less than 10 years later, University of Illinois agronomist George McKibben established his own. plots in Dixon Springs, Ill. in 1961 to start his own studies.
In the decades that followed, researchers discovered how direct seeding regenerates soils and increases biodiversity. The biological functions present in healthy soil were not apparent from the start, but working with other experts, agronomists began to understand the keys to successful no-till.
Sharing these results with farmers has led to the global adoption of no-till farming. Conservation agriculture cropland covers 507.6 million acres worldwide, according to a 2018-19 study coordinated by Rolf Derpsch, a longtime no-till researcher based in South America. This is an increase of almost 93% globally over the past 10 years and an exponential growth since the first 7 / 10th of an acre of Young.
We spoke with five educators who have spent decades researching and teaching soil and no-till health about what has changed and their predictions of what is to come.
Educating and innovating for 50 years
Paul Jasa, an extension engineer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has studied no-till for almost 50 years. He conducted a survey on the performance of corn farmers for his master’s thesis in…