If the numbers are correct, you're seeing fewer and fewer moldboard plows ripping through fields across the country. Conservation tillage is taking a solid leap forward. Used on 113 million acres this year, conservation tillage is up nearly 10 million acres from 2002.
The just-released 2004 National Crop Residue Management Survey confirms that 41% of all cropland is now under a conservation tillage system. That's defined as stubble or residue left from the previous crop to cover at least one-third of the soil's surface after planting.
The biggest sector of conservation tillage belongs to no-tillers, with 62.4 million acres. Those no-till acres increased 7.1 million acres, up from 55.3 million acres in 2002. That means no-till is used on nearly 23% of all cropland in the country, up from 20% in 2002 and 17.5% in 2000.
My native state, South Dakota, is home to the biggest bump in those no-till acres, with more than 2 million acres of no-till added since 2000.
Here's how the top 10 no-till states stack up, according to the 2004 survey. The biennial 2004 tillage systems survey was coordinated by the Conservation Technology Information Center in partnership with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
With that kind of growth in conservation tillage, maybe it's time you took a second look at its advantages, such as increasing soil productivity, protecting the environment and adding profit to your bottom line.
To help you explore your options, The Corn And Soybean Digest is helping sponsor a one-of-a-kind conference devoted just to conservation tillage. It will be held Feb. 8-9, 2005, at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls, SD. (February in South Dakota? What better place for a winter getaway?)
Farmer speakers for the two-day event come from the trenches. You'll hear first-hand how these growers have mastered no-till, strip-till, mulch-till and ridge-till. In addition, experts will cover topics like:
Managing weeds to maximize yields
Dealing with common pest problems
Choosing the right nitrogen strategy
Analyzing soil structure and compaction
Calculating value of the Conservation Security Program
For a look at the full program and to register, log on to www.cornandsoybeandigest.com  and click on the Conservation Tillage Conference and Expo button on the right.
And if you haven't caught up on the latest with the Conservation Security Program, see “CSP Grows By Leaps And Bounds,” page 20. In 2004, only 18 watersheds were part of the program; 202 watersheds qualify in 2005. Signup begins early next year.
All of us here at The Corn And Soybean Digest wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.
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