Impact on soils of the change towards reduced tillage

Reduced tillage is common practice across the globe, with farmers adopting this approach to save time and fuel, and policy-makers supporting the shift because of the potential benefits to soil sustainability and the environmental impacts of farming. Taken over the vast global area of land under arable production, adopting reduced tillage could present a major mitigation option for greenhouse gases, through decreased emissions and increased carbon sequestration. 

However, data on reduced tillage impacts on soil properties and crop yields are mixed, perhaps due to multi-faceted impacts such as differences in soils, agronomy and climate.  Benefits to practising reduced tillage include maintenance of structure and the build-up of organic matter in surface layers, where it helps to resist erosion. 

There may be problems too, such as the propagation of soil borne diseases, the need for increased use of herbicides to control weeds and volunteers, yield reduction/establishment.  Perceived benefits to soil are only sometimes observed.  In the maritime climate of the UK, benefits to carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions have been disputed. 

This workshop will address research that benefits agricultural production and disentangles the unpinning processes driving changes to soil properties and processes.