OSU Navigation Bar

The Ohio State University

Climate, Water, and Carbon Program

CWC Members: Log inCreate account

Video Introduction to No-Till Farming

This video is an introduction to no-till farming, one facet of carbon management.

Movie transcript

TC BROWN V/O: David Lotz, a Hardin County farmer, parked his plow many years ago in favor of using no-till farming techniques.
No-till farming reduces greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide, that are released into the air when fields are plowed. Many scientists believe that the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from many different sources is speeding up the pace of climate change.
Mr. Lotz is part of a voluntary program in which he is paid for carbon reductions due to his no-till farming. Those reductions – called credits – are converted into permits, or allowances, and then sold in the marketplace to industries that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide. Those allowances are used by businesses as offsets for the amount of carbon that they emit.
Lawmakers may establish this market-based approach as a policy, making it a regulated program – called cap and trade – that would cap emissions and help reduce human contributions to climate changes.

DAVID LOTZ: Basically you're coming along with a similar planting unit with a depth control wheel and a seed disc to place the seed at the bottom of the trench.
From there you move into the closing wheels. There's been various designs there from a cast iron closing wheel, one on each side of the road to press it back shut, to rubber wheels where you don't have much residue and pretty mellow soil.
Recently, last three, four years why they came with a spike closing wheel. Basically it doesn't put any pressure on the seed. It just basically comes in from the side like a spading effect. And just spades or heels the dirt into the trench which leaves a loose fit.
You disturb the soil with a heavy tillage you leave it all loose on top and that is very subject to erosion. Whereas with the no till you're leaving all of the residue but primarily the plant root system which keeps that dirt intact and so on and doesn't leave it loose like that.
With continued no till you tend to revert back to some of the prairie and woodland soils that we had before the ground was cleared because that ground was never tilled either. So the earth worms and the natural decay process keeps the soil in a more of a fertile state.

V/O: Soil in an untilled field has more structure, making it harder to erode. The color differences in soil from a no-tilled field and a plowed field are easy to see.
The dark soil from the no-till field has a lot more carbon, built up because the field was not plowed.
Carbon-enriched soil is critical for producing a healthy crop yield, a point that is even more urgent in a time when many in the world are struggling to find enough food to survive.
The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio has studied no-till farming since 1962, making it the world's longest continuously maintained no-till experiment. Warren Dick, a soil scientist at the center and a professor for OSU's School of Natural Resources, said that there are many pluses to no-till farming.

WARREN DICK: Probably the biggest one that has driven the adoption of no tillage is erosion control. Less movement of soil from the fields into our rivers and streams. And that actually has a little bit of a carbon component to it because most of your carbon is in the material that's eroded. The material that's eroded is carbon rich compared to what's left behind. So you're losing carbon from the field.
In the United States about 20 percent of all crop land is being managed using no tillage. And it's been 60 percent soybeans are now produced in Ohio by no tillage and about 20 percent of the corn. And that number has been pretty stable over the last decade or so.
Actually going to zero tillage or no tillage we can begin to take carbon out of the air and put it back into the soil. And that has a lot of benefits. Not only for carbon and climate change but also because any carbon in the soil makes that soil much more productive.

V/O: No-till agriculture is a piece of the puzzle, and many think no-till methods are likely to grow in Ohio and elsewhere. It's less expensive and better for crops. And farmers can get paid for their carbon reductions. It's a win-win for everyone.

DAVID LOTZ: We'll receive approximately 20,000 carbon credits over a two, three year period. Probably earn on average $2 to $3 an acre.