Jun 13, 2019

No-till Farming in Brazil offers Many Advantages

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

No-till farming has been one of the most important innovations in Brazilian agriculture in recent decades and it has helped propel Brazil to become a power house in grain production. No-till farming is when seeds are planted directly into an existing cover crop or crop residue with minimal disturbance of the soil.

Some of the major advantages of no-till farming is that it controls soil erosion, it allows for maximum water infiltration, and it allows the soil to retain more of the soil moisture.

Research conducted by the Agronomic Institute of Parana (IAPAR) demonstrated that a field covered by plant residue or a cover crop has 100% water infiltration whereas a bare field without any protective cover loses about 1/3 of the rainfall as runoff. This reduced infiltration can lead to moisture deficits later in the growing season. The runoff causes erosion of valuable topsoil, it removes fertilizers that may have been previously applied, and it causes problems with sedimentation in rivers and lakes,

No-till farming also helps to sequester carbon in the soil. In the state of Parana, soils that are not tilled retain 22 grams of carbon per kilogram of soil, which is almost the same as native forest. Therefore, no-till farming is almost as effective as native forest in helping to combat global warming

The first use of no-till planting in Latin America was conducted in Rolandia, Parana in southern Brazil in 1972. It started a revolution in Brazilian agriculture that continues to this day. In 1976 IAPAR started conducting research on no-till farming and today, the practice has been adopted on more than 32 million hectares in Brazil (almost 80 million acres).

The director of IAPAR indicated that agricultural research conducted by public institutions helps to increase productivity while at the same time helping to strike a balance with the environment. Public institutions conduct research on soil conservation, climate studies, and carbon sequestration in the soil, all of which can lead to more sustainable agriculture. Research such as this is not the focus of private companies.