Susan Brocksmith teaches ag students at Vincennes University. She is also a farmer's wife and a farmer's daughter. Since her husband no-tills, she is very tuned in to differences in tillage systems.
Recently, she decided to do an experiment in her ag business class to see what students thought about various tillage systems without being prompted or having the systems explained to them in great detail first. Several of the students are from the farm, but not all. Some will either return to the farm or a farm business that serves farmers.
"Those are the students we really want to be sure to educate about conservation tillage," she says. "They will have influence on a lot of other farmers if they become an agronomist or consultant for a farm retail dealer that serves a large number of farmers."
Brocksmith recently asked her class for perceptions about what the words no-till and conventional tillage meant.
Some of the reactions she got for no-till included: 'not healthy,' 'wetter soil,' 'lower yield,' 'more chemicals,' 'weed problems,' and 'soil compaction.' The same students had these things to say about conventional tillage: 'better seedbed,' healthier soils,' 'higher yields, 'dries up quicker,' and 'kills weeds.'
For many it was perception, not actual experience. "Perception is important," Brocksmith says.
One take from these comments and an experiment she did later was that old habits die hard, Brocksmith says.
The challenge is to sell the truth that no-till actually is beneficial, she says. More people, including farm managers, need to be convinced that no-till and no-till systems that include cover crops produce healthier soils and reduce soil erosion. Hard studies may be needed to prove these conclusions and help people get by the perception that no-till has more problems instead of that no-till is part of the solution for raising crops more efficiently, she says.