Tillage has significant, and well known, downsides:
● Soil is dried before seeding;
● Soil loses nutrients like nitrogen and has reduced ability to retain water;
● Reduces water infiltration rate of the soil;
● Increases soil erosion;
● Reduces diversity and population of soil microbiome;
● Eutrophication; and
● Can facilitate pests and plant disease
The primary role of tillage is to mechanically destroy weeds, and loosen and aerate the topsoil layer, facilitating crop planting. However, tillage is widely recognized as a costly and environmentally harmful practice. Modern agriculture practices trend towards reducing its use to once every several years instead of yearly.
Regenerative agriculture promotes reducing or eliminating tillage, resulting in both significant cost reduction through lower labor and fuel and equipment costs, and reduced environmental damage (Triplett, 2008). This also preserves the organic matter content in the soil and the number and stability of soil aggregates (Six, 2000). Although no-tillage techniques are not exclusive to regenerative agriculture, they are combined within the framework of regenerative agriculture to promote soil health and reduce soil erosion without sacrificing land productivity.