GHGMP News Releases

Producer reaps economic and environmental benefits of no-till

Sackville, N.B.,October 7, 2004

The learning curve for producers starting out with a direct seeding system may be steep, but there are several economic and environmental benefits to be found at the end of the production rainbow, says one New Brunswick producer who has successfully made the switch.

After 15 years of developing a direct seeding system, Robert Acton, who along with his family operates a 1,200 head capacity feedlot near Sackville, N.B., is convinced that direct seeding forages, grain and even corn is both productive and profitable.

"Reduced field time and reduced fuel use are two of the big savings," says Acton. "But the practice has also benefited the environment with reduced soil compaction, erosion and greenhouse gas emissions."

Part of Acton's crop production on dykeland is being monitored as part of the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). As well, a demonstration project comparing conventional conservation and direct seeding crop systems that was established in 2003 is continuing this year.

Acton's advice to producers is not to get discouraged when making the switch to a direct seeding system. "It takes a while to get used to the system, but it works well," he says.

For more details on this direct seeding project in New Brunswick as well as similar demonstration projects in Nova Scotia see feature stories on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) Website at www.soilcc.ca.

Pat Toner, soil management specialist with New Brunswick Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, says that the ongoing demonstration project is also showing the value of reduced tillage.

"We're seeing a wide range or production, economic and environmental benefits from the no-till system compared to the other treatments," he says. "While yields are similar under all systems, producer costs are reduced, fuel consumption is cut by 60 percent or more, and soil health is improved, which increases the potential to sequester carbon."

Through the GHGMP project, Toner is comparing conventional tillage, which usually involves one pass with a tandem disc and one or two passes with an S-tine harrow, with a conservation or reduced tillage treatment that involves one or two passes with only the S-tine harrow, and zero-till.

Looking at figures collected from grain and forage seeding demonstrations in 2003, Toner says there is a clear economic advantage. Crop production costs under the conventional system totaled $158 per acre with a net profit of about $60 per acre, conservation tillage production costs totaled $152 per acre with a net profit of $65 per acre, while the no-till plots had production costs totaling $146 per acre with a net profit of $71.53 per acre. Fuel savings, measured in pounds per acre, from reduced field operations contributed to the lower production costs, Toner says.

Toner also notes several advantages of zero-till from an environmental and conservation standpoint. With fewer field operations, soil compaction is reduced, as is the risk of water erosion.

"We're also seeing an improvement in overall soil health," he says. "With reduced tillage, soil organic matter is improving, which helps sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and the bulk density of the soil changes. Rather than being compacted, it has more tilth and improved aeration, which means improved nutrient cycling."

The GHGMP supports a broad range of projects across Canada with the goal to promote awareness of agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SCCC administers the delivery of the soil and nutrient management sector component of the program. For more information on activities, visit the SCCC's Web site at www.soilcc.ca.


For more information, contact:

Pat Toner
Soil Management Specialist
New Brunswick Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture
Phone: (506) 453-2109

Jerome Damboise, Co-ordinator
Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre
Grand Falls, New Brunswick
Phone: (506) 475-4040

Doug McKell, Executive Director, SCCC
Indian Head, Sask. Phone: (306) 695-4212