I just got back from the Cotton and Rice (plus a smattering of other crops) Conservation Tillage Conference in Houston, attended by about 600 folks interested in learning ways to decrease the number of trips they make across a field, and, in the process, improve soil tilth, reduce water and wind erosion and save a dollar or two.
Experts from industry, academia and farms offered a seed hopper full of useful ideas on how to make conservation tillage work under a variety of soil, crop and climatic conditions.
The scheduled sessions, if a person could get to all of them, would provide a good start on a textbook for reduced tillage.
And conversations at breaks, receptions and dining functions provided some insight into how farmers will take this information and put it to work. The opportunities seemed limitless.
Farmers who have tried reduced tillage cited improvements in soil structure after a few years. Some said water that comes off their reduced-till acreage flows cleaner than it did before. Old crop residue or cover crops hold soil in place.
Some say they spend considerably less money on equipment maintenance and get by with smaller tractors.
But one of the biggest advantages, farmers say, comes from the time saved by conservation tillage.
So, when we had an opportunity to meet with a number of farmers and crop consultants over dinner one evening, we explored the reduced tillage advantages a bit further. Some benefits, we discovered, may be neither as tangible nor as obvious as others.
After a glass or two of sasparilla, we came up with a number of good but somewhat intangible incentives. With apologies to David Lettermen, here's our top 10 list of reasons farmers switch to conservation tillage:
No. 10: More time to hunt.
No. 9: More time to fish.
N0. 8: More time to hang out with buddies at the co-op, drink coffee and grouse about low commodity prices.
No. 7: More time to hang out with buddies at the co-op, drink coffee and complain about government farm programs that no one, not even government officials, can understand.
No. 6: More time to attend no-till meetings and learn more reasons to switch to conservation tillage.
No. 5: More time to devote to strategic planning for important farm functions (see numbers 9 and 10).
No. 4: More time to develop better marketing plans (Like that's going to happen!).
No. 3: More money for capital expenditures (such as a new deer rifle).
No. 2: More time to read inspirational columnist in Southwest Farm Press.
And the No. 1 reason farmers switch to conservation tillage, and I have to give credit to farmer Harvey Kalina for this one because he threatened litigation if I didn't, is:
Spent so much money at the conservation tillage meeting I had to cancel order for diesel fuel.
You just can't argue with that logic.