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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2006

No-Till Crop Production Method Makes Big Gains
Ag Department survey finds use of the erosion-reducing practice has surpassed conventional tillage


 SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – No-till soil conservation practices have reached their highest level since the Illinois Department of Agriculture began tracking use of crop tillage systems in 1994.

 Results of the 2006 Illinois Soil Erosion and Crop Tillage Transect Survey show that 33 percent of all crops were planted using no-till production methods, eclipsing the previous record of 30 percent in 2002. 

Conventional tillage was used on 31 percent of the cropland examined, marking the first time in the survey’s history no-till had surpassed conventional tillage as the production method of choice among Illinois farmers.  

 
 “This survey helps to explain why Illinois consistently ranks among the largest producers of grain in the United States,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said.  “We’ve been able to sustain a high level of production because our farmers take their role as environmental stewards seriously and increasingly are adopting practices that protect the state’s fertile cropland.”

No-till farming, which involves planting seeds directly into the previous year’s crop residue without tilling the soil, was practiced in 51 percent of the state’s soybean fields, the first time the figure has topped 50 percent and a more than five percentage point improvement since the last survey in 2004.  Increases also were observed in the number of no-till corn and small grains fields.  No-till was used to plant 17 percent of the corn crop and 36 percent of the small grains, increases of two and three percentage points, respectively.

 In addition to the increase in no-till acreage, the survey also revealed an increase in the percentage of Illinois farmland with tolerable soil loss levels.  About 86 percent of the fields surveyed were below “T,” the rate at which soil naturally replaces itself.  Another 10 percent was slightly above “T” and will require only minor adjustments in crop production methods to fall within the tolerable range.

 The Soil Erosion and Crop Tillage Transect Survey is conducted every two years and was completed with assistance from Illinois’ 98 soil and water conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Data was collected last spring and early summer from more than 51,000 fields across the state.  A summary of the results follows:

TILLAGE SYSTEMS --- ALL CROPS
(percentage of fields surveyed with each system)
 2006 2004 2002 2001 2000 1999
No-till 33.1% 29.2% 30.2% 29.3% 29.1% 25.8%
Mulch-till 16.4% 17.2% 15% 17.8% 18.7% 15%
Reduced till 19.3% 20.1% 19% 21.2% 21.2% 22%
Conventional 31.2% 33.5% 35.8% 31.7% 30.4% 36.4%
Unknown 0% 0% 0% 0% .6% .8%


TILLAGE SYSTEMS --- CORN
(percentage of fields surveyed with each system)
 2006 2004 2002 2001 2000 1999
No-till 16.7% 14.9% 16.9% 17.0% 16.4% 13.7%
Mulch-till 13.5% 12.0% 10.7% 10.5% 11.5% 8.5%
Reduced till 21.9% 21.9% 19.5% 23.5% 23.2% 21.3%
Conventional 47.9% 51.2% 52.9% 49.0% 48.7% 56.2%
Unknown 0% 0% 0% 0% .2% .3%


TILLAGE SYSTEMS --- SOYBEANS
(percentage of fields surveyed with each system)
 2006 2004 2002 2001 2000 1999
No-till 51.0% 45.6% 43.9% 42.1% 41.7% 38.3%
Mulch-till 18.7% 22.1% 18.9% 24.8% 26.0% 21.9%
Reduced till 16.5% 17.9% 18.0% 18.9% 19.8% 23.2%
Conventional 13.8% 14.4% 19.2% 14.2% 12.4% 16.4%
Unknown 0% 0% 0% 0% .1% .2%


TILLAGE SYSTEMS --- SMALL GRAINS
(percentage of fields surveyed with each system)
 2006 2004 2002 2001 2000 1999
No-till 35.5% 32.9% 34.0% 32.4% 38.2% 34.9%
Mulch-till 25.3% 25.9% 24.3% 27.9% 21.9% 17.5%
Reduced till 17.3% 20.5% 25.2% 18.9% 13.2% 16.9%
Conventional 21.9% 20.7% 16.5% 20.8% 16.9% 19.2%
Unknown 0% 0% 0% 0% 9.8% 11.5%

TILLAGE SYSTEMS:

• Conventional:  A full width tillage system that leaves 0-15% residue after planting.
• Reduced Till:  A full width tillage system that leaves 16-30% residue after planting.
• Mulch Till:  A full width tillage system that leaves greater than 30% residue after planting.
• No-Till:  Planting or drilling is accomplished in a narrow seedbed or slot created by coulters, row cleaners, or disc openers.  Crop residue greater than 30% remains after planting.


Progress Toward “T”*
 Below “T”     Slightly Over “T”
            %          %
2006 85.8% 10.2%
2004 84.9% 10.7%
2002 85.0% 10.8%
2001 85.0% 10.6%
2000 85.7% 10.4%
1999 85.7% 10.5%

*The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was used to calculate soil loss levels.



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