Madison County Soil Conservation District 

Serving to Conserve Madison County's Soil & Related Natural Resources Since 1941

Home Up Outreach Programs Our Soil Our Water Plants & Animals Site Map Helpful Links




No-Till Farming is the planting and the maintenance of crops with the minimum disturbance of soil.  Crop seeds are placed in a small slit in the soil using a no-till planter or a no-till drill. Existing vegetation, whether a planted cover crop or volunteer growth, are killed with chemicals as well as the undesirable plants that emerge throughout the growing season. 





Residue management no-till systems can be designed to accomplish one or more of the following:

Reduces water and herbicide runoff by 50% or more.

Reduces soil erosion up to 90%.

Conserves soil moisture up to 2 inches.

Improves water infiltration.

Improves long-term productivity by increasing soil organic matter.

Reduces soil compaction.

Improves water quality.

Sequesters carbon - Plowing releases almost ten times as much carbon dioxide.

Improves air quality.

Provides food and cover for wildlife.

Reduces equipment maintenance costs by as much as 5 dollars per acre.

Reduces labor.

Improves soil tilth.

Increases earthworm populations.


Distribute residue uniformly. Equip combines or other harvesting machines with spreaders capable of distributing residue over at least 80 percent of the combine header width.

Limit secondary removal of crop residue by baling or grazing. Retain the amount of residue needed to achieve the intended purposes.

Do not burn residue.

Do not disturb residue by full width tillage operations except for spot treatment of weeds or limited use of undercutting operations, such as sweeps or blades used to level ruts or alleviate compaction.

Leave residue standing to maximize benefits to wildlife and improve equipment operation.

Use equipment properly. Coulters and/or double disk openers must be run at the correct depth and speed to cut through surface residue and place seed at the proper depth. Good slit closure is required for soil seed contact.

Limit residue disturbance in the row. Disturb no more than 1/3 of the row width by nutrient injection, row cleaning, planting, or other operations during the cropping season.

Row cleaners may be attached to the planters to move residue out of the row area and help warm and dry the seedbed.

Injectors must be able to operate in high residue. Anhydrous injectors, manure injectors, and similar equipment may need to be modified to operate in high residue.

Weed control strategy must be carefully planned and implemented to maintain residues, control weeds, and maximize yields. Other pests should be closely monitored. Limit herbicide choices to non-incorporated. CAUTION: If pesticides or their containers are handled or applied improperly or if unused portions are not disposed of safely, they may be injurious to humans, domestic animals, desirable plants, and fish or other wildfire. Follow the directions and heed all precautions on the product label.

Maintain a minimum of 50% surface cover to retain soil moisture for crop use by enhancing infiltration and reducing evaporation.


Tips from Tennessee Farmers

Soil test. Take test early. Sample in the fall and apply lime if needed.

When planting in sod, perform chemical burn down well in advance of planting (at least 2 months). In sod you may need to apply a second burn down prior to planting.

Increase seeding rate by at least 10%.

Maintain planter. Make repairs well in advance of cropping season.

Calibrate planting equipment accurately to obtain desired plant populations, proper seed depth, and slot closure.

Recalibrate drill when changing seed.

Plant at later seeding dates.

Choose heavy yielding varieties and increase plant populations even more to take advantage of higher yield potentials on the best soils.

Choose drought tolerant varieties on thin upland soils.

Delay planting on wetter bottom soils.

Monitor soil temperature before planting.

Row direction. On slopes greater than 7%, rows should be cross slope or contoured.

Use treated seed when necessary.

Calibrate spray equipment. Proper application rates and coverage are critical.

Insecticides may be needed, especially with no-till corn in sod.

Pesticide labels. Become very familiar with and follow label instructions.

Apply fertilizer as indicated by soil test.

Nitrogen. Reduce application amounts of commercial nitrogen fertilizers according to the residual nitrogen left from previously grown legume crops (i.e., crimson clover, vetch, soybeans, alfalfa).

Manure. Reduce application amounts of commercial fertilizers according to the residual nutrients supplied by manure. Manure application within the last two to three years should be considered.

Scout for insects and weed competition. Be prepared to use control measures when warranted.

Planting into small grain. Plant crops following small grain diagonally to the direction of small grain harvest.

Excerpts taken from NRCS Standards January 2000





Copyright 2019 - Madison County SCD All Rights Reserved  -  This site was last updated: March 27, 2019  -   Contact the Webmaster   -   Policy Statements


    Madison County Soil Conservation District    -    313 North Parkway    -   Jackson, Tennessee 38305   -  (731) 668-1544 ext. 3   -   FAX: 1-855-584-5847