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Cultivation breaks the soil apart. Every time sods are turned, all forms and orders of life in the soil are disrupted, especially long strands mycorrhizal fungi. Fungal viability is diminished by the regular shredding effect of cultivation. Earthworms are killed. Humus starts to oxidize and then evaporates. Hardpans form from the weight of the plough. Water penetration and holding capacity is reduced.

The main benefit of Conventional No-Till Farming is derived from minimal soil disturbance. As plants die off, roots decompose in undisturbed soil to form capillaries. These capillaries are further formed by rain as it enters the soil. Back in the 60’s when new Brigalow Country was cleared for farming, it was worked with cultivation machinery to break these capillaries and so try to hold rain in the top 300 mm of soil. For capillaries to work as nature intended, they need to be covered with mulch. Today a lot of that brigalow country is dry and compacted, often returned to grazing. Soil structure has been destroyed, by the removal of mulch cover and by breaking capillaries down. Loam soils are more prone to compaction.

The Origins of No Till can be traced back to 1948 with a publication of a Book called “The Ploughman’s Folly”. 70 years latter it is not unreasonable for some people to conclude that the World is better off without Chemical-Dependent-No-Till Farming. 80% of global grain production is for intensive animal production. Back in 1948 grain was an occasional supplement for chickens and pigs. Grain can still play a role today – yet if your objective is to conserve fossil fuel energy – the role of grain is best restored to its pre-World War Two function.

So whilst Edward Faulkner, the author of The Ploughmans Folly offered no real practical solution to the adverse effect of ploughing upon soil fertility, today many solutions are known and understood. So, lets not stand upon our high ponies, lets get down to the ground, and start describing and developing practical modern land use methods that not only conserve energy and maintain soil fertility, but provide for all forms of life, including our own. You need only cultivate your intelligence. 

Long Fallow Syndrome: Occurs in no-till paddocks that are devoid of plant life for extended periods due to dry conditions and the ongoing removal of all living plants (with chemicals). All micro life forms in the soil that plants depend upon for uptake of nutrients simply die-off. Why ? because there is nothing growing to feed the micro life forms in the soil.  

NO No Till

PHOTO 1: Looking across to the hillside you will see ancient lines marked into the hill. These lines are “old diversion erosion control banks” that were made prior to the emergence of No Till Farming. The No Till method arrived in Australia in the early ’80’s. (Same Scene in Next Photo)  Conventional No Till Farming is chemical dependent. Chemicals kill undesired weeds. Some chemicals are notoriously toxic. These chemicals must ultimately enter the water cycle and food chain. By logically organising plants and animals, and by managing stored water for its most productive use, (which on our farm is vegetable production) chemicals and fuel powered farming machinery may be eliminated. The future is dependent upon “The Changing of The Species and Changing Methods of Production”. CIRCA 2018.

PHOTO 2: One method of No Till – The Eclipse Tiller – These Sleeper Offcuts also hold moisture. Every few weeks or so they are moved on to smother another section. Lift up a  sleepers and you will often find frogs and earthworms, centipedes and many other life forms. Within this, our own small sleeper garden, of about 70 square metres, there are about 500 small frogs thriving. You will also find them there during Winter. The dominant frog is a small brown burrowing creature, about 40mm long. For intensive gardens, this is one of best methods to eliminate seed banks of unwanted plants within your garden. DATE of PHOTO Winter ’18.

PHOTO 3: During the 60’s and 70’s a series of “diversion and contour banks” were often made in cultivation country. Objective was to reduce erosion by controlling the flow of torrential rain into the diversion channels, and run it away off your country. Once no till farming was introduced in the 80’s these banks lost favour because they interfered with spray rigs that were used to control weeds prior to planting. Old style cultivation techniques caused “hard-panning’ on the first 150mm to 300mm of the topsoil, preventing rain from entering the soil profile. (cultivators push down on the soil with weight and only work the top 75 to 150 mm of topsoil, the hardpan is compacted soil below this working zone)  End result was a lot of rainfall run-off that was captured by the diversion banks to prevent gully erosion. IN HINDSIGHT, it was remarkable that a system was designed to dry the country out even more, and it was promoted by Government Ag Departments over all of Australia. With the arrival of no till, cultivation was almost eliminated, stubble was left standing, soil structure reformed, and run-off significantly reduced. One Jimbour Plains Farmer has noted that after the introduction of no till on their farm, their small house dam has remained almost permanently dry, excluding big rainfall events that may only occur every 7-10 years or so. Even on grazing hillside country, such as our own experimental farm at Jimbour, the reduction of runoff into our dam, due to the creation of dense grasslands from full rest and rotations, has become an adverse management issue for storing water in dams. Prior to cultivation of the nearby Jimbour Plain 100 years ago, it was possible to receive 6 inches of overnight rain on The Plain, wake up in the morning, and no visible surface water was to be seen. It had all soaked in ! THE WAY SOIL STRUCTURE was 200 Years Ago in Australia, is what you want in your garden or grazing paddocks TODAY. On top of your soil you need mulch. Our Garden Research is focused on growing your own mulch where you need it. GO TO: STORY # 24 – DESMANTHUS MULCH GARDEN – for more insight

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