top of page

Soil Scientist Urges Against Tilling

Whether talking to farmers in France, Ghana or southern Ohio, Rafiq Islam’s message is consistent: Tilling the land does more long-term damage than good.

As an Ohio State University soil scientist, Islam is among the disciples in the movement to convince farmers that plowing their fields before they plant or after they harvest harms the health of the soil and its ability to spur growth and resist erosion.

Soil plowed repeatedly can lose key ingredients that enrich it, including carbon, which can evaporate as carbon dioxide gas into the air. Left undisturbed, soil can maintain that carbon, and the dry, decaying stalks in an untilled field add to the organic materials in the dirt.

After crops such as soybeans or corn are picked, a farmer can plant a cover crop in a field instead of plowing it. The cover crop isn’t harvested for food but instead keeps the soil covered and porous and contributes carbon to it, Islam said. Land left bare is more susceptible to erosion and cannot absorb water from rain or snow as efficiently as when cover crops are planted on it.

United Soybean Board

bottom of page