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Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage

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The most economical tillage system depends upon a number of factors, and the most economical system for one farm may not be the most economi- cal for an adjacent farm. In this chapter, we identify factors that may tip the scales in favor of one system over another. Prior to the implementation of the 1996 Farm Bill (Freedom to Farm Bill), the vast majority of Oklaho- ma dry-land crop acres were seeded to continuous monoculture hard red winter wheat. In 1975, more than 96 percent of the cropland in Garfield County was seeded to winter wheat. By 1995, the propor- tion seeded to wheat, excluding land in the Con- servation Reserve Program, had increased to more than 99 percent (Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics Service, 2006). Chapter 6 Chapter 6
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Economics: No-till versus
Conventional Tillage
Economics: No-till versus
Conventional Tillage
27
The most economical tillage system depends
upon a number of factors, and the most economical
system for one farm may not be the most economi-
cal for an adjacent farm. In this chapter, we identify
factors that may tip the scales in favor of one system
over another.
Prior to the implementation of the 1996 Farm Bill
(Freedom to Farm Bill), the vast majority of Oklaho-
ma dry-land crop acres were seeded to continuous
monoculture hard red winter wheat. In 1975, more
than 96 percent of the cropland in Gareld County
was seeded to winter wheat. By 1995, the propor-
tion seeded to wheat, excluding land in the Con-
servation Reserve Program, had increased to more
than 99 percent (Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics
Service, 2006).
Chapter 6
Chapter 6
Previous studies have identied several im-
pediments to the adoption of no-till for continuous
monoculture winter wheat production. First, the lack
of an inexpensive and effective herbicide program
necessary to control weeds throughout the summer
from harvest in June until planting in October has
been a major obstacle. A no-till budget prepared in
1994 included 4.5 pints per acre of glyphosate (4
pounds of emulsiable concentrate per gallon) at $6
per pint ($48 per gallon) for a cost of $27 per acre
(Epplin, Al-Sakkaf, and Peeper, 1994). The 1994
study found that the reduction in tillage costs when
switching from conventional tillage to no-till was
insufcient to offset the expected increase in herbi-
cide costs. Tillage was the most economical way to
control cheat and other similar species and volun-
teer wheat in a continuous wheat system. A 1998
survey found two-thirds of the farms that produced
wheat in the Prairie Gateway used no herbicide (Ali
2002).
Second, some of the rst generation no-till grain
drills did not always result in successful stands of
wheat. Third, wheat yields obtained from continu-
ous monoculture wheat in a no-till system were of-
ten lower than yields obtained from conventional
till systems (Bauer and Black, 1992; Epplin et al.,
1983; Epplin, Al-Sakkaf, and Peeper, 1994; Heer and
Krenzer, 1989; Williams et al., 2004). Given the high-
er production costs combined with lower yields, the
fact that few farmers in the region used no-till to
Economics of No-Till
Economic considerations will vary from farm
to farm and are dependant upon:
• Types of cultivation systems
• Weed control programs
• Equipment and cost considerations
• Federal policy
The USDA found in a 1998 survey that less than
three percent of the wheat farms in the Prairie Gate-
way, the region that includes Western Oklahoma,
Kansas, Eastern New Mexico, Eastern Colorado,
Southern Nebraska, and Northern Texas, used no-
till to produce wheat (Ali, 2002). These ndings
included wheat produced in rotations as well as
wheat in monoculture.
“The no-till operation contin-
ues to have higher yields on
average. We have split a farm
in half, tilling one side and
no-tilling the other side…the
side that was no-tilled raised
10 to 15 bushels more per acre
than the tilled side.”
C. Trojan
Bison, OK
Francis M. Epplin
Professor, Agricultural Economics
Oklahoma State University
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
28
produce continuous monoculture wheat was under-
standable.
Fourth, federal policy penalized growers who
planted crops other than wheat on wheat base acres.
Therefore, the vast majority of the acres were seeded
to continuous monoculture winter wheat, and the
most economical wheat production system required
tillage to control cheat and volunteer wheat.
During the last decade, several changes provide
justication for reevaluating the economics of no-till
production for the region. These factors include a
change in federal policy, a reduction in the price of
glyphosate, improvements in no-till seeding equip-
ment, and an increase in the price of diesel fuel. The
change in federal policy, beginning with the 1996
Farm Bill that eliminated the requirement of seed-
ing wheat base acres to wheat in order to maintain
eligibility for program payments is important. The
policy change enabled farmers to plant crops other
than wheat on wheat base and enabled them to ro-
tate crops with wheat. Crop rotations are often use-
ful tools for managing weeds and diseases.
The second factor is a reduction in the price of
glyphosate. Generic glyphosate became available
in 2000 after the original patent expired. The price
of glyphosate (four pounds of emulsiable concen-
trate per gallon) has declined from a U.S. average of
$45.50 per gallon in 1999 to less than $20 per gallon
in 2007. This reduction in cost for controlling sum-
mer weeds in continuous monoculture no-till win-
ter wheat is less than half of what it was in 1990 and
substantially less when adjusted for price ination.
The development and adoption of glyphosate-resis-
tant varieties of corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton
has also advanced the adoption of no-till. The devel-
opment and improvement of no-till grain drills and
air seeders that increase the likelihood of good soil-
to-seed contact in a variety of residue and soil condi-
tions has also advanced the adoption of no-till. An
additional factor is the price of diesel fuel increased
from less than $1 per gallon in 2002 to more than $2
per gallon in 2006. This price change increases the
relative cost of tillage, and tips the economic balance
scales in favor of no-till.
Case Study: Cost of No-Till
versus Conventional Tillage
for Continuous Wheat
for Four Farm Sizes
A case study was conducted by Stock (2004) to
determine the production costs for both conven-
tional tillage and no-till (direct seeded with a no-till
drill or air seeder) continuous monoculture wheat
production in Oklahoma on four farms. More spe-
cically, the objectives were to determine the costs
of conventional tillage and no-till management farm
practices for each of four farm sizes (320; 640; 1,280;
and 2,560 acres) from monoculture wheat used to
produce grain (Stock 2004; Epplin et al. 2005). In
this section, revised results of that study are pre-
sented.
Stock used an economic engineering approach.
Costs for each system and farm size were com-
puted, based upon eld operations and operating
inputs that were dened from results of small plot
research conducted over three years on three Okla-
homa farms (Morley 2006).
The number and type of eld operations (till-
age, seeding, herbicide application, insecticide ap-
plication, fertilizer application, and harvest) for
both conventional tillage and no-till production sys-
tems are listed in Table 1. For the conventional till-
age system, the assumption was made that the eld
Table 1. Field Operations Budgeted for Conventional Tillage and No-till Wheat Production Systems.
Field Operations Month Conventional No-till
Moldboard Plow (Used on 20% of acres) June P
Chisel (Used on 80% of acres) June P
Apply Herbicide (Glyphosate) June P
Apply Herbicide (Glyphosate) August P
Secondary Tillage August P
Broadcast Fertilizer (46-0-0) August P P
Secondary Tillage September P
Apply Herbicide (Glyphosate) October P
Tertiary Tillage October P
Band Fertilizer with Drill (18-46-0) October P P
Plant Wheat (Conventional Till Drill) October P
Plant Wheat (No-till Drill) October P
Apply Pesticide (Dimethoate) April P P
Harvest Wheat Grain June P P
29
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
would be tilled after harvest in June with either a
moldboard plow (20 percent) or chisel (80 percent).
Another assumption was that 20 percent of the farm
would be plowed each year, so each eld is plowed
with a moldboard once in ve years. A tillage opera-
tion was budgeted for August followed by urea (46-
0-0) application and tillage operation in September.
A nal tillage operation was budgeted for October
prior to seeding with a conventional drill or conven-
tional air seeder. For the no-till system, glyphosate
applications were budgeted for June, August, and
prior to planting in October. A no-till drill or no-till
air seeder was budgeted to plant the wheat in Octo-
ber. An April insecticide application was budgeted
for both systems. Table 2 includes a list of the oper-
ating input prices and application rates for both sys-
tems. Applications of fertilizer, seed, and insecticide
were assumed to be the same across systems.
Machinery Selection
Available tractors and machines were deter-
mined from personal interviews and discussions
with dealers and conrmed by information posted
on manufacturers’ websites. These discussions re-
sulted in three important assumptions. The rst
assumption was that all wheat produced would be
custom harvested and hauled. The machinery costs
did not include costs of combines and trucks. The
second assumption was that herbicide, fertilizer,
and insecticide would be custom applied on the two
smaller farms, but farmer applied on the two larger
farms. The machinery complements for the 1,280-
and 2,560-acre farms included fertilizer applicators
and sprayers. The third assumption was that air
seeders rather than grain drills would be budgeted
for the 2,560-acre farm.
The list prices used for drills and air seeders as
reported in Table 3 show that the relative cost dif-
ference between conventional and no-till seeding
equipment depends upon machine size. A 10-foot
no-till drill costs almost three times as much as a 10-
foot conventional drill. A 20-foot no-till drill costs
more than twice as much as a 20-foot convention-
al drill. However, a 36-foot no-till air seeder costs
only 30 percent more than a 36-foot conventional air
seeder.
MACHSEL, a machinery complement selection
software program developed by Kletke and Sestak
(1991), enables a user to assemble a set of tractors
and machines that can perform the budgeted eld
operations in the expected time available. Candi-
date machines were selected based on farm size,
estimated eldwork days, machines available, and
required eld operations. Table 3 includes a list of
the selected machines for each farm size for both
Table 2. Operating Inputs Budgeted for Conventional Tillage and No-till Wheat Production Systems.
Price
Operating Inputs Date Unit ($) Conventional No-till
Glyphosate June Pt. 2.25 1.5
Custom Application Acre 4.00 1
Glyphosate August Pt. 2.25 2
Custom Application Acre 4.00 1
Urea (46-0-0) August Lbs. 0.16 196 196
Custom Application Acre 3.75 1 1
Glyphosate October Pt. 2.25 1
Custom Application Acre 4.00 1
Diammonium Phosphate (18-46-0) October Lbs. 0.14 50 50
Wheat Seed October Bu. 9.00 1.5 1.5
Dimethoate April Pt. 4.00 0.75 0.75
Custom Application Acre 4.70 1 1
a Custom application of herbicide, fertilizer, and insecticide was budgeted for the 320- and 640-acre farms. Custom application of these inputs
is not assumed for the two large farms. The machinery complements of the 1,280- and 2,560-acre farms include fertilizer applicators and
sprayers.
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
30
Table 3. Machinery Complements Budgeted for Conventional Tillage and No-till Wheat Production Systems
for Alternative Farm Sizes.
List Price Machine Width Conventional No-till
Machine ($) (Feet)
320-Acre Farm
95 hp Tractor 58,167 P P
Moldboard Plow 13,921 4.75 P
Chisel 5,555 8.55 P
Disk 7,543 10.48 P
Conventional Till Drill 9,239 10 P
No-till Drill 27,053 10 P
Machinery Labor (hrs/ac) 1.21 0.29
Average Machinery Investment ($/ac) 160 134
Diesel fuel (gal. per acre) 5.0 1.2
640-Acre Farm
155 hp Tractor 81,707 P P
Moldboard Plow 15,812 7.75 P
Chisel 9,673 18.6 P
Disk 20,231 17.1 P
Conventional Till Drill 23,957 20 P
No-till Drill 51,992 20 P
Machinery Labor (hrs/ac) 0.68 0.14
Average Machinery Investment ($/ac) 128 106
Diesel fuel (gal. per acre) 4.6 1.0
1,280-Acre Farm
95 hp Tractor 58,167 P
Sprayer 5,564 40 P
Fertilizer Spreader 11,200 40 P
155 hp Tractor 81,707 P P
No-till Drill 51,992 20 P
Conventional Till Drill 23,957 20 P
Sprayer 7,372 60 P
Fertilizer Spreader 11,200 40 P
170 hp Tractor 101,198 P
Moldboard Plow 18,337 8.5 P
Chisel 16,469 20.4 P
Disk 22,049 18.75 P
Machinery Labor (hrs/ac) 0.72 0.43
Average Machinery Investment ($/ac) 119 85
Diesel fuel (gal. per acre) 5.2 2.2
2,560-Acre Farm
95 hp Tractor 58,167 P P
Sprayer 5,564 40 P P
Fertilizer Spreader 11,200 40 P P
255 hp Tractor 156,404 P P
Disk 29,022 28.13 P
Chisel 21,982 30.6 P
Conventional Till Air Seeder 105,000 36 P
No-till Air Seeder 137,500 36 P
255 hp Tractor 156,404 P
Moldboard Plow 24,516 12.75 P
Chisel 21,982 30.6 P
Disk 29,022 28.13 P
Machinery Labor (hrs/ac) 0.51 0.37
Average Machinery Investment ($/ac) 131 75
Diesel fuel (gal. per acre) 4.9 2.1
production systems. Parameters, including eld ef-
ciency, draft, speed, repair factors, and deprecia-
tion costs, were based upon Agricultural Machinery
Management Data Standards as published by the
American Society of Agricultural and Biological
Engineers (2001). Diesel fuel price was budgeted at
$2.25 per gallon.
The machinery complement for the 320-acre
conventional tillage farm included a 95 horsepower
tractor matched with a plow, chisel, disk, and con-
ventional drill. The 320-acre no-till farm included a
95 horsepower tractor and a 10-foot no-till drill. For
the 640-acre conventional tillage farm a 155 horse-
power tractor was matched with a plow, chisel, disk,
and conventional drill. The 640-acre no-till farm in-
cluded only a 155 horsepower tractor and a 20-foot
no-till drill.
The machinery complement for the 1,280-acre
conventional tillage farm included two tractors (155
and 170 horsepower), sprayer, fertilizer spreader,
plow, chisel, disk, and conventional drill. The 1,280-
acre no-till farm machinery complement included
two tractors (95 and 155 horsepower), sprayer, fer-
tilizer spreader, and no-till drill. The complement
assembled for the 2,560-acre conventional tillage
farm included three tractors (one 95 horsepower
and two 255 horsepower tractors), a sprayer, fertil-
izer spreader, plow, two chisels, two disks, and a
conventional air seeder. The 2,560-acre no-till farm
complement included two tractors (one 95 horse-
power and one 255 horsepower), a sprayer, fertilizer
spreader, and a no-till air seeder.
Results of Case Study
Table 4 includes estimates of production costs
for both systems across the four farm sizes. Figure
1 includes a chart of the average machinery invest-
ment per acre. The difference in average machinery
investment between the conventional tillage and
no-till machinery complements ranges from $22
per acre for the 640-acre farm to $56 per acre for the
2,560-acre farm. The machinery cost estimates de-
pend upon the type and set of machines selected to
include in the complement for a particular farm size.
For example, economies of size in average machin-
ery investment are more evident across the range of
farm sizes for the no-till system. The list price for
the 36-foot no-till air seeder budgeted only for the
2,560-acre farm is 2.6 times as much as the 20-foot
no-till drill budgeted for the 1,280-acre farm. How-
ever, the list price for the 36-foot conventional till
air seeder budgeted only for the 2,560-acre conven-
tional tillage farm is more than four times as much
as the list price for the 20-foot conventional till drill
selected for the 1,280-acre conventional tillage farm.
This difference explains much of the relative differ-
ence in size economies across the two production
systems when the farm size increases from 1,280 to
2,560 acres.
Machinery xed costs (depreciation, insurance,
interest on average investment, and taxes) for both
systems across the four farm sizes are included in
Table 4 and graphed in Figure 2. The estimates are
similar across farm size. They range from $25 to $35
per acre for the conventional tillage farms and from
$16 to $28 per acre for the no-till farms. For the four
farms, the estimated difference in machinery xed
costs between conventional tillage and no-till range
from $6 to $12 per acre. The chart in Figure 2 illus-
trates the potential economies of size in machinery
xed costs per acre especially for the no-till pro-
duction systems. Machinery xed costs per acre is
greater for the 2,560-acre conventional tillage farm
than for the 1,280-acre conventional tillage farm
primarily because an air seeder rather than conven-
tional drill was budgeted for the larger farm.
31
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
Figure 1. Average machinery investment ($/acre)
for both conventional tillage and no-till monocul-
ture winter wheat for four farm sizes.
Figure 2. Machinery xed costs ($/acre) for both
conventional tillage and no-till monoculture win-
ter wheat for four farm sizes.
180
150
120
90
60
30
0
160
134 128
106
119 131
85
75
320 640 1,280 2,560
Farm Size (acres)
Average Machinery Investment
($ per acre)
Conventional
No-till
Machinery Fixed Cost ($ per acre)
40
30
20
10
0
35
28 28
22
25
28
18
16
320 640 1,280 2,560
Farm Size (acres)
Conventional
No-till
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
32
Table 4. Estimates of Machinery Labor, Machinery Investment, and Production Costs for Conventional Till-
age and No-till Wheat Production Systems.
Units Conventional No-till
All Farms
Wheat Seed $/ac 13.50 13.50
Fertilizer $/ac 38.36 38.36
Herbicide $/ac 0.00 10.13
Pesticide $/ac 3.00 3.00
Custom Harvest and Hauling $/ac 24.00 24.00
320-Acre Farm
Machinery Labor hrs/ac 1.21 0.29
Average Machinery Investment $/ac 160 134
Interest on Operating Capital $/ac 2.60 3.39
Diesel Fuel $/ac 11.25 2.70
Lubricants $/ac 1.69 0.41
Repairs $/ac 3.85 1.67
Custom Application Charge $/ac 8.45 20.45
Total Operating Cost $/ac 106.69 117.61
Machinery Fixed Cost $/ac 34.58 27.88
Total Operating Plus Machinery Cost $/ac 141.27 145.49
640-Acre Farm
Machinery Labor hrs/ac 0.68 0.14
Average Machinery Investment $/ac 128 106
Interest on Operating Capital $/ac 2.61 3.37
Diesel Fuel $/ac 10.35 2.25
Lubricants $/ac 1.55 0.34
Repairs $/ac 4.64 1.57
Custom Application Charge $/ac 8.45 20.45
Total Operating Cost $/ac 106.47 116.96
Machinery Fixed Cost $/ac 28.09 22.49
Total Operating Plus Machinery Cost $/ac 134.56 139.45
1,280-Acre Farm
Machinery Labor hrs/ac 0.72 0.43
Average Machinery Investment $/ac 119 85
Interest on Operating Capital $/ac 2.53 2.76
Diesel Fuel $/ac 11.70 4.95
Lubricants $/ac 1.76 0.74
Repairs $/ac 7.96 4.71
Custom Application Charge $/ac 0.00 0.00
Total Operating Cost $/ac 102.81 102.15
Machinery Fixed Cost $/ac 25.37 17.92
Total Operating Plus Machinery Cost $/ac 128.18 120.07
2,560-Acre Farm
Machinery Labor hrs/ac 0.51 0.37
Average Machinery Investment $/ac 131 75
Interest on Operating Capital $/ac 2.61 2.89
Diesel Fuel $/ac 11.03 4.73
Lubricants $/ac 1.65 0.71
Repairs $/ac 9.79 7.35
Custom Application Charge $/ac 0.00 0.00
Total Operating Cost $/ac 103.94 104.66
Machinery Fixed Cost $/ac 28.45 16.07
Total Operating Plus Machinery Cost $/ac 132.39 120.73
Budgeted Diesel fuel price of $2.25 per gallon.
33
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
As shown in Table 4, wheat seed ($13.50 per
acre), fertilizer ($38.36 per acre), insecticide ($3.00
per acre), and custom harvest and hauling ($24 per
acre) costs are assumed to be the same for both sys-
tems across all farm sizes. The budgeted cost of the
herbicide program for the no-till system is $10.13
per acre. No herbicide was budgeted for the con-
ventional tillage system.
Figure 3 includes a chart of total operating costs
($/acre) for both production systems across the four
farm sizes. Operating costs are very similar for the
two large farms. For these farms, no-till required
$10 per acre more for herbicide and saved $10 to $11
per acre in fuel, lube, and repairs. For the two small
farms, no-till required $10 per acre more herbicide
and $12 per acre more for custom application, but
saved about $12 per acre in fuel, lube, and repairs.
The estimated operating costs for the two small
farms are approximately $11 per acre greater for the
no-till system.
Figure 4 includes a chart of total operating plus
machinery xed costs for both production systems
across the four farm sizes. The estimated total op-
erating and machinery costs are $4 per acre greater
for the 320- and 640-acre no-till farms than for the
corresponding conventional tillage farms. Howev-
er, estimated costs are $8 to $11 per acre greater for
the conventional tillage 1,280- and 2,560-acre farms.
These estimates do not include differences in the op-
portunity cost of labor across farm sizes and pro-
duction systems.
The estimated savings in diesel fuel for the no-
till relative to conventional tillage 320- and 640-acre
farms is 3.7 gallons per acre. For the small farms, the
assumption was made that herbicide and pesticide
would be custom applied. Custom harvest was as-
sumed for all farms. For the 1,280- and 2,560-acre
farms, the estimated savings in diesel fuel for the
no-till relative to conventional is approximately 2.9
gallons per acre.
Differences in labor costs are not reected in
Figures 3 and 4. Savings in time differ across farm
size and across assumptions relative to the applica-
tion of herbicides and pesticides. For the 320- and
640-acre farms, the average difference in estimated
machinery labor requirement between the conven-
tional and no-till systems is approximately 0.75
hours per acre. For the 1,280- and 2,560-acre farms,
the estimated difference is approximately 0.25 hours
per acre. The value of 0.25 to 0.75 hours per acre is
farm and farm family specic. The opportunity cost
of family labor, and the cost to hire labor, may differ
substantially across farms. Some farm families may
have access to relatively inexpensive labor. Howev-
er, other families may struggle to nd time to com-
plete eld activities in a timely manner. Some fami-
lies may be able to use the time saved by switching
to no-till, to farm additional acres, or to expand live-
stock production activities.
Cost differences between the two systems as
budgeted are minimal. For the 640-acre farm the
budgeted no-till system required an additional 4.5
pints per acre of glyphosate ($10.13 per acre) and an
additional $12 per acre in custom application charg-
es. The no-till system saved 3.6 gallons of diesel fuel
($8.10 per acre), $5.60 per acre in machinery xed
costs, and 0.54 hours of labor per acre. If the farm
family’s labor was valued at $9.06 per hour the two
systems would have equal costs.
Case Study Conclusions
Several general conclusions can be made from
the results of the case study. The reduction in the
price of glyphosate after the original patent expired
and the increase in the price of diesel fuel has im-
proved the relative economics of no-till for con-
tinuous winter wheat, but economic advantages or
Figure 3. Total operating costs ($/acre) for both
conventional tillage and no-till monoculture win-
ter wheat for four farm sizes.
Figure 4. Total operating plus machinery xed
costs ($/acre) for both conventional tillage and no-
till monoculture winter wheat for four farm sizes.
Total Operating Costs ($ per acre)
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
107
118
106
117
103 104
102 105
320 640 1,280 2,560
Farm Size (acres)
Conventional
No-till
Operating plus Machinery Fixed
Cost ($ per acre)
160
120
80
40
0
141145 135139 128 132
120 121
320 640 1,280 2,560
Farm Size (acres)
Conventional
No-till
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
34
disadvantages are still farm specic. The economics
of no-till relative to conventional tillage depend on
farm size. The list prices of effective no-till grain
drills are from two to three times greater than the
list prices of conventional drills. No-till equipped
air seeders list for 30 to 40 percent more than con-
ventional air seeders of the same width, but the dif-
ference in drill/seeder cost decreases as the size of
the drill/seeder increases.
A general nding of the case study is that if 4.5
pints of glyphosate per acre can successfully control
weeds, no-till for continuous wheat production is
cost-competitive with conventional tillage. While
the costs may be similar between the systems, pro-
ducers must also consider potential differences in
yield and revenue. For a eld that is relatively free
of weeds, the glyphosate system as budgeted may
work for one or two years. However, most experi-
ment station trials conducted in Oklahoma of no-till
versus conventional tillage for continuous wheat
managed to produce grain, have found that weeds
often become a very serious problem after two or
three years. Most studies have also found that in a
continuous wheat system in regions with annual
rainfall in excess of 26 inches, wheat grain yields are
often less in the no-till plots. The cost savings from
switching to no-till may be insufcient to offset the
expected yield loss. For these reasons (weeds and
yields), no-till is not currently recommended for
continuous monoculture wheat managed to pro-
duce grain. However, some growers have been able
to manage weed problems by using a rotation that
includes wheat for forage-only (graze out) along
with wheat for grain.
Other Considerations
No-till is more likely to be economical in farm/
soils/climate situations in which no-till enables
farmers to increase the number of harvested acres
per year on the farm. For example, in some regions
of the U.S., a no-till system enables the successful
double cropping of soybeans or grain sorghum af-
ter wheat. The probability of a successful double
crop with conventional tillage is not as great due to
timing and loss of soil moisture. In some situations,
no-till enables the cropping of land too steep for
conventional tillage. In effect, a no-till system may
enable the conversion of pastureland to cropland. In
both of these situations, the appropriate economic
comparison is not between no-till and conventional
tillage. In the rst case, it is between growing a crop
and fallow, and in the second case, it is between
producing a crop and pasture. In both cases, no-till
enables an increase in the number of harvested acres
for a given farm size, and the investment in either
a no-till drill, a no-till planter, or a no-till air seeder
may be weighed against the investment in addition-
al land.
The following questions may be useful to assist
with determining whether no-till may be an eco-
nomical alternative for your farm situation.
1. Do you currently, or do you plan to use crop
rotation?
If Yes: consider no-till. Currently, because of the
inability to control weeds, no-till is not likely to
be the most economical system for continuous
monoculture wheat for grain.
2. Do you plan to double crop by planting grain
sorghum or soybeans immediately after wheat
harvest?
If Yes: consider no-till.
3. Would a no-till drill/planter permit you to
crop fertile pasture land that is currently not
cropped because of potential for erosion?
If Yes: consider no-till.
4. Do you have the opportunity to use the poten-
tial labor savings (0.25 to 0.75 hours per acre)
either to farm additional land, or to earn addi-
tional income from an alternative use for your
labor?
If Yes: consider no-till.
5. Are you planning to replace your grain drill?
If Yes: consider no-till.
If the answers is yes to one or more of the above
questions, then farm-specic economic analysis
could be used to determine if no-till is likely to be
an economical choice for your farm. The econom-
ics of no-till are farm and farm situation specic. In
addition to the cost of tillage relative to the cost of
herbicides and the cost of no-till drills and air seed-
ers relative to the cost of conventional drills and
seeders, the economics of no-till depends upon farm
size, soils, climate, crops grown, and the opportu-
nity cost of the farm family’s labor.
The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
has a program specically designed to assist Okla-
homa farm families that are in the process of con-
sidering a change in the farm business. In addition
to an attitude adjustment, switching to no-till will
require either a no-till drill or no-till air seeder or
dependable access to timely custom no-till plant-
ing. Also, no-till requires a sprayer or dependable
access to timely custom application of herbicides.
Oklahoma farm families who are considering a
change to no-till are encouraged to take advantage
of the services provided by the Oklahoma Coop-
erative Extension Service. The Intensive Financial
Management and Planning Support (IFMAPS) pro-
gram provides specially trained nancial specialists
to work one-on-one with Oklahoma farm families
to develop sound nancial plans in a condential
35
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
manner. Specialists arrange a mutually convenient
time and place (often the producer ’s home) to meet.
To determine if a change in tillage system is likely
to be economical for your farm, contact your county
Extension ofce, or call 800-522-3755 and ask to par-
ticipate in the IFMAPS program.
References
Ali, M. B. 2002. Characteristics and Production Costs
of U.S. Wheat Farms. United States Department
of Agriculture Statistical Bulletin number 974-5.
American Society of Agricultural Engineers Stan-
dards. 2001. Agricultural Machinery Manage-
ment Data. ASAE D497.
Bauer, A. and A.L. Black. 1992. Effect of Manage-
ment Method of Erect Stubble at Spring Plant-
ing on Performance of Spring Wheat. North Da-
kota State University Agricultural Experiment
Station Research Report No. 524.
Epplin, Francis M., Ghazi A. Al-Sakkaf, and Thomas
F. Peeper. 1994. Impacts of Alternative Tillage
Methods for Continuous Wheat on Grain Yield
and Economics: Implications for Conservation
Compliance. Journal of Soil and Water Conserva-
tion 49-4:394-399.
Epplin, Francis M., Curtis J. Stock, Darrel D. Kletke,
and Thomas F. Peeper. 2005. Cost of Conven-
tional Tillage and No-till Continuous Wheat
Production for Four Farm Sizes. Journal of the
American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Ap-
praisers 69:69-76.
Epplin, Francis M., Thomas F. Tice, Steven J. Handke,
Thomas F. Peeper, and Eugene G. Krenzer, Jr.
1983. Economics of Conservation Tillage Sys-
tems for Winter Wheat Production in Oklahoma.
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 38:294-297.
Heer, W.F., and E.G. Krenzer, Jr. 1989. Soil Water
Availability for Spring Growth of Winter Wheat
(Triticum aestivum L.) as Inuenced by Early
Growth and Tillage. Soil and Tillage Research
14:185-196.
Kletke, D., and R. Sestak. 1991. The Operation and
Use of MACHSEL: A Farm Machinery Selection
Template. Department of Agricultural Econom-
ics Computer Software Series CSS-53. Oklaho-
ma State University, Stillwater.
Morley, Deena Leigh. 2006. Effects of Tillage Sys-
tem, Grazing, and Seeding Date on Grain Yield
of Hard Red Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
and Effect of Production Objective and Tillage
System on Forage Production. Oklahoma State
University M.S. thesis.
Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics Service. 2006.
Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics 2006.
Available at: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Sta-
tistics_by_State/Oklahoma/Publications/An-
nual_Statistical_Bulletin/index.asp
Stock, Curtis J. 2004. Winter Wheat Cropping and
Tillage Systems. Oklahoma State University
M.S. thesis.
Williams, J.R., R. G. Nelson, M. M. Claassen, and
C.W. Rice. 2004. Carbon Sequestration in Soil
with Consideration of CO2 Emissions from Pro-
duction Inputs: An Economic Analysis. Envi-
ronmental Management 33-:S264-S273.
Economics: No-till versus Conventional Tillage
36
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... We assumed accessibility only in middle to high income countries with Global National Income above 4000 USD capita À1 , and half of croplands suitable for no-till, given farm size and cost constraints (Lal, 2007). Furthermore, no-till farming was assumed to impose additional costs of 1030 USD tonne À1 phosphorus erosion on farms below 200 ha, around 60% of global cropland (Epplin, 2008;FAO, 2010). (Fantel et al., 1988;Abouzeid, 2008) X 2 = X 1 /(1 À K 3 ) K 3 = 0.25 K 3 , beneficiation loss X 3 Phosphate losses in beneficiation 7.6 Mass balance X 3 = X 2 À X 1 X 4 ...
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We analyze global elemental phosphorus flows in 2009 for (1) mining to products, (2) animal and human manure flows, (3) crop harvests and animal production, (4) food production, (5) soil erosion, (6) and crop uptake. Informed by the flow assessment the potential and cost of phosphorus usage reduction and recycling measures are quantified, and fed into a constructed phosphorus supply-demand model with reserve assessment to assess the impact of these measures on phosphate rock resource availability. According to our results in 2009 globally 21.4 Mt elemental phosphorus from rock phosphate was consumed in products of which 17.6 Mt used as fertilizers, fully able to cover erosion losses and outputs in agriculture in aggregate, but insufficient from the perspective of bio-available phosphorus in soils. We find substantial scope for phosphorus use reduction, at potentially 6.9 Mt phosphorus, or 32% of 2009 phosphate rock supply. Another 6.1 Mt, or 28% can technologically be recycled from waterways and wastewater, but at a cost substantially above any foreseeable phosphate rock fertilizer price. The model results suggests phosphate rock reserves are sufficient to meet demand into the 22nd century, and can be extended well into the 23rd century with assessed use reduction and recycling measures.
... Research has also shown no-till cropping systems to increase soil organic carbon [12], earthworm populations [13] and soil permeability [14]. With fewer tillage operations being conducted, chemical fallow and no-till reduce the amount of fuel used by a producer, thereby reducing input costs [15,16]. Unfortunately, in the traditional deep-furrow planting areas of the Pacific Northwest, little research has been conducted to evaluate which cultivars are best suited for a late-planted no-till system. ...
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... Applying these cost data in GCAM changes the relative profitability of different agricultural management options. A change in tillage intensity resulted in no net change in production costs, because increased costs of herbicides approximately offset the decreased costs of tillage (Harper, 1996;Massey, 1997;Epplin, 2007). A cost of $15 per ton of residue removed was used, based on the pre-adjusted cost of $20 per ton (ISUE, 2010;Residue Matters, 2013). ...
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... A conventional grain drill could not be used in planting a crop in no-till conditions. A twenty-foot wide no-till grain drill can cost of $51,992 to purchase and a no-till air seeder costs upwards of $137,500 to purchase compared to a conventional drill cost of $23,957 to purchase and a conventional air seeder costing $105,000 to purchase (Epplin, 2007). A FCB and YBP would want to consider these equipment upgrades before adopting this practice to participate in the loan program. ...
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This study was designed to determine to what extent tillage and fall growth as affected by planting data influence profile soil water for spring growth and yield of monoculture winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). The study was conducted for 3 crop years (1982–1985) at Stillwater and Lahoma, OK. A randomized-block design with a split-plot arrangement was used where main units were tillage and subunits were 4 plantings spaced 1 month apart. Soil water was measured using the neutron-scattering method. The effects of tillage and amount of fall growth on profile soil water (PSW), total soil water in the 1.2-m soil profile, differed between the two locations. At Stillwater, neither tillage nor differences in fall growth affected soil water. During the third year at Lahoma, where precipitation was more limiting, a significant tillage effect on PSW developed at jointing. No-till (NT) was significantly greater than that of the conventional tillage (CT). This effect was observed consistently through the 1.2-m profile. The effect of fall growth on spring PSW was not consistent. The fall growth effect on grain yield was significant at both locations in all 3 years except for Stillwater in 1982–1983. However, there was no tillage by planting date interaction. The mid-September and October planting dates consistently had higher yields than the mid-August and November planting dates. The use of NT has a potential to increase spring profile soil water for the production of monoculture winter wheat in the South Central Great Plains. However, the potential to deplete this increase through increased fall growth by planting early exists and there is further need to evaluate the benefits of additional forage obtained with earlier planting vs. the depletion of stored soil water and the potential effect upon grain yields.
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An economic analysis of wheat and grain sorghum production systems that affect carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and sequester soil carbon (C) in metric tons (MT) is conducted. Expected net returns, changes in net C sequestered, and the value of C credits necessary to equate net returns from systems that sequester more C with those that sequester less is determined with and without adjustments for CO2 emissions from production inputs. Experiment station cropping practices, yield data, and soil C data for continuously cropped and rotated wheat and grain sorghum produced with conventional tillage and no-tillage are used. No-till has lower net returns because of somewhat lower yields and higher overall costs. Both crops produced under no-till have higher annual soil C gains than under conventional tillage. However, no-till systems have somewhat higher total atmospheric emissions of C from production inputs. The C credit values estimated in this study will equate net returns of no-tillage to conventional tillage range from 8.62 to8.62 to 64.65/MT/yr when C emissions from production inputs are subtracted from soil C sequestered, and 8.59 to8.59 to 60.54/MT/yr when atmospheric emissions are not considered. This indicates accounting for CO2 emissions from production inputs may not be necessary in the process to issue C credits.
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Thesis (M.S.)--Oklahoma State University, 2006. Includes bibliographical references (p. 28-30). Vita. The full text of the thesis is available as an Adobe Acrobat pdf.file (ix, 66 p.); Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view the file.
Effect of Management Method of Erect Stubble at Spring Planting on Performance of Spring Wheat
  • A Bauer
  • A L Black
Bauer, A. and A.L. Black. 1992. Effect of Management Method of Erect Stubble at Spring Planting on Performance of Spring Wheat. North Dakota State University Agricultural Experiment Station Research Report No. 524.
The Operation and Use of MACHSEL: A Farm Machinery Selection Template
  • D Kletke
  • R Sestak
Kletke, D., and R. Sestak. 1991. The Operation and Use of MACHSEL: A Farm Machinery Selection Template. Department of Agricultural Economics Computer Software Series CSS-53. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.
Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Wheat Farms. United States Department of Agriculture Statistical Bulletin number
  • M B Ali
Ali, M. B. 2002. Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Wheat Farms. United States Department of Agriculture Statistical Bulletin number 974-5.