Re: tillage vs. no-tillage in California

I too have questioned why California has been slow in adapting 
no-tillage practices to their massive agriculture industry. Dr. Ron 
Morse, developer of the No-Till Sub-Surface Tiller Transplanter- 
Virginia Tech.- was recently in CA and he noticed the same sentiment 
although there were a few growers interested in the concept. Dr. Aref 
Abdul-Baki, designer of the no-till vegetable system in cover crops, 
-USDA Beltsville MD, has generated some cover crop activity in southern 
One of the reasons why fertile areas, such as CA and many other places 
in the US, have not jumped into this is because they can "afford" some 
soil erosion, organic matter depletion, and heavy pesticide use as a 
price to pay for top yields. Other countries and places in the US with 
poorer quality soil and very little topsoil CANNOT "afford" these losses 
or they go hungry! Folks like Carlos Crovetto-from Chile(who I see was 
at the conference) have proven that long term no-tillage works. With the 
use of cover crops and crop rotation commercial fertilizer and 
pesticides can be significantly reduced. This has great appeal where 
cash for imputs are scarce and for those of us who want to make a decent 
living while working with nature as it does its part in helping to 
produce a healthy food product.
In answer to your questions:
1) Should we no-till at all costs? 
I think that is to high a goal at this point- but maybe a good one to 
aim at. As equipement technology and weed management evolves we will 
come closer to that end. The benefits of no-till are real and 
documented. It's time that we as sustainable farmers realize that we can 
no longer 'turn our backs' on soil erosion 
and call ourselves "sustainable".   
2) Is a no-tillage, organic system possible?
From my experience(I guess by now I should tell you that I'm a 
sustainable 100% no-tiller-and that includes tomatoes, pumpkins, 
peppers, sweet corn, cole crops, as well as corn, soybeans, small 
grains, and alfalfa-on 175 acres in PA) I would say yes-on a small 
scale. Weed control would be the challenge. I use 1/3 the pesticides 
that my conventional neighbors are applying and they plow, disc, harrow, 
cultivate 2-4 times, and I still come out with high yields great weed 
control and  top quality healthy produce. We are currently producing a 
video, about what we've experianced on our farm, that would be helpful 
for those who want to learn more about the no-till vegetable system. Our 
website has more info on this. 

Check out our new website! http://www2.epix.net/~cmfarm/
Steve Groff
Cedar Meadow Farm
679 Hilldale Rd
Holtwood PA 17532
Ph. 717-284-5152