The adoption of a no-till feedgrain production system in a crop rotation with irrigated wheat production increases farm income, reduces underground water depletion, conserves energy, and reduces labor needs. Simultaneous attainment of these items might be considered compatible multiple goals of Great Plains farmers facing rising production costs, a declining water table and narrowing profit margins.
Benefits from the no-till system are due to improved wheat residue management techniques and the increasing availability of no-till equipment. Chemical weed control in wheat stubble provides increased soil moisture retention, reduced soil exposure to wind and water erosion and, in some cases, a savings in total production costs when compared with conventional tillage practices. Variable production costs are reduced somewhat by the no-till system in irrigated feed grain production but are higher than conventional tillage for dryland sorghum production. Machinery depreciation costs are reduced significantly for both no-till irrigated and dryland feedgrain production.
Increased profitability of the no-till feedgrain production system over conventional tillage is due largely to three items: (1) increased yields, (2) reduced fuel and labor requirements of irrigating and tillage, and (3) savings in machinery depreciation costs. No-till practices, however, require larger expenditures for chemicals.
In addition, harvesting expenses are increased due to higher grain yields from the no-till system.
In summary, the discounted stream of profits (5 percent) are 50 percent higher with no-till using the average pumping lift of 353 feet and a constant natural gas price for the next 10 years. If gas prices rise in relation to all other inputs, profits increase by 67 percent with no-till practices. Profits can be doubled with no-till in the high lift, rising gas price situation at 5 or 10 percent discount rates. With gas prices held constant, 67 to 69 percent higher profits are realized with the respective discount rates. If the low pumping lift situation is considered, profits are increased at the five percent rate about 50 percent with rising gas prices. If gas prices remain constant, profits are 45 percent higher in the low pumping lift situation. Somewhat smaller increases in profitability are realized at a 10 percent discount rate.
Both water use efficiency and energy use efficiency increase with no-till feedgrain production. Increased yields per acre from no-till coupled with lower irrigation requirements and diesel use for tillage increase resource use efficiency.
The implications of this analysis regarding increased profits, reduced energy and labor use, and conservation of scarce groundwater raise the question as to why producers are not rapidly adopting-no-till practices. Recent changes in the relationship of fuel costs versus herbicide costs are only now being realized by many producers. Availability of new herbicides is increasing each year supported by substantial research to indicate regional and crop specifications. Improved machinery, particularly planters and drills, is being developed to compensate for seeding in heavier residue. Producer acceptance of “trash” farming has been slow, however.
Clean-till attitudes and psychology are being gradually eroded by the current economic advantages of limited tillage practices in more arid regions (Stewart and Harman).
Reporting of on-farm results in recent years supporting research findings indicates the importance of continued public policy support of research and education programs. Economic analyses of this type provide the basis for evaluating ongoing research results. Evaluations of resource use, impacts on production efficiency and assessments of profitability can provide impetus for continued public support. In addition, if higher profits accrue to agriculture as a result of new and improved means of efficient resource use, the financial condition of commercial agriculture may also be improved.
(Source – http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/32516/1/10010134.pdf)Read more