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Conservation Tillage

Conservation tillage is a method of cultivating crops to reduce soil erosion. Crop residue is left on the soil surface, which improves soil drainage, organic matter and moisture content. With conservation tillage, most or all of the crop stubble is not plowed or disked into the soil. Thus at least 30% of the soil is covered by crop residue.

Instead of controlling weeds with cultivation a cover crop or herbicides are used. Because of the greater dependence on herbicides, the sustainability of conservation tillage may be questioned. However, for highly erodible soils, the consequences of using more herbicides may be outweighed by the need to reduce soil erosion and conserve water.


  • Reduces runoff and soil erosion.
  • Runoff reduction means more nutrients and pesticides will remain on the field versus being washed into local streams and lakes.
  • Conserves soil moisture, promotes infiltration and reduces soil compaction.
  • Has been used for over 50 years as a means of using less water more efficiently and increasing the holding capacity of the soil.


"Sustainable Practices for Vegetable Production in the South," NC State University,

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