Conservation Tillage Systems in the Southeast

Chapter 2: Conservation Tillage Systems: History, the Future and Benefits

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Dorcas H. Franklin, University of Georgia

Jason S. Bergtold, Kansas State University

Necessity is the mother of invention. A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or to solve the problem. Throughout time, mankind has strived to feed a growing population through improved farming practices. At times these efforts caused degradation of the agricultural landscape, diminishing productivity. In the southeastern United States, the climate, topography and soil morphology have resulted in a highly erodible landscape [43]. Once exposed to erosive forces, soil particles are easily dislodged and transported into streams, lakes and coastal waters resulting in less-fertile and less-productive farmlands. Severe degradation of soil from wind and water erosion during the late 1800s and early 1900s led to development of improved soil conservation practices. Conservation tillage systems are an effort to provide more food to more people while sustaining or improving a productive land base.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine why farmers adopt conservation tillage systems. It examines the history and future of conservation tillage systems as well as the benefits these systems provide. History allows us to learn from our failures and successes, and to capitalize on practices that will help agriculture thrive sustainably. Looking to the future provides a roadmap for the further development of conservation tillage systems. Understanding the benefits will allow farmers to assess the different options for their farm.