Iowa Public Television


No-Till Farming and Crop Rotation Yield Benefits for Air and Land

posted on January 7, 2011

The 112th Congress officially began in Washington this week. And as members of the House of Representatives quarreled over the proper way to read the Constitution, more than half a dozen U.S. senators came out against higher blends of ethanol in U.S. gasoline.

In a letter to EPA, the lawmakers expressed concern that higher blends COULD cause damage to some engines. They asked the agency to reconsider its decision last year authorizing blends of 15 percent ethanol in 2007 model-year vehicles and newer.

The agency is scheduled to rule in the coming days on whether to allow higher blends of the predominately corn-based fuel in vehicles going back to 2001.

Agriculture continues to play a significant role in America's energy and environmental policies. And a recent study conducted by Purdue University discovered no-till farming and systematic crop rotation offer benefits for the air AND the land.

No-Till Farming and Crop Rotation Yield Benefits for Air and Land

Advocates of no-till farming picked up a victory this week with the release of a study showing the further adoption of no-till practices has considerable benefit on air quality.

A study conducted by Purdue University shows no-till fields released 57 percent less nitrous oxide than those prepared chisel plowed.

The reduction of much maligned greenhouse gas also is reduced 40 percent when moldboard plowing is used over chisel tilling.

The federally funded study led by Purdue Agronomist Tony Vyn looked at the amount of nitrous oxide released during the last three growing seasons.

Vyn says "the soil disturbance and residue placement impacts of chisel plowing and moldboard plowing modify the soil physical and microbial environments such that more nitrous oxide is created and released."

Another discovery of the study was the air quality benefit of crop rotation.

Of course, no-till farming has long been thought to reduce erosion and improve soil quality, according to Vyn, emissions were lowered 20 percent in fields where corn and soybeans alternate from year to year.

An EPA report released last year revealed 68 percent of nitrous oxide emission in the U.S. in 2008 came from farmland and the U-S emissions of the gas grew 6 percent between 1990 and 2008.

According to EPA nitrous oxide is the 3rd-most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere with 310 times more heat-trapping power than carbon dioxide due, in part, to the 120-year lifespan of the gas.

Tags: agriculture crops news