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Preface to the Second Edition

Preface '˜And he gave for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.' Jonathon Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726) '˜A Voyage to Brobdingnag' The authors of this book describe and analyse no-tillage technologies, particularly those related to no-tillage seed drilling, from a variety of accumulated experiences over the past 40 years. Most of us set out to discover why no-tillage did not always work and how to overcome these obstacles. The more we learned the more appealing no-tillage farming became. The understanding and system science has now been acquired and tested to the point where we are ever more confident it represents the future of farming. Some of the reported research started from knowledge that none of the traditional drills, planters or opener technologies used for tillage farming then provided a fail-safe methodology for untilled, residue-covered soils. Inevitably that resulted in new machine designs and evaluations, and combined associated technologies. The guiding premise was that every functional part of any new design had to have a verifiable scientific reason and performance, which often resulted in a long evolution. No functional assumptions were made. All commonly held ideas about what seeds required were challenged or discarded and new experiments set up to determine their requirements specifically in untilled soils. This new knowledge was combined with whatever existing knowledge proved still to be applicable. In other cases the rules for tilled soils simply did not apply, or were proven wrong, when applied to untilled soils. Undisturbed soils were found to provide different resources and challenges than tilled soils, thus requiring different approaches to seed sowing. Other authors report what happened to soil when ploughing ceases. Everyone by now knows that no-tillage is good and ploughing is bad for the soil, but what are the causal mechanisms and can the improvements or damage be quantified? Can the gains be further improved by techniques such as controlled traffic farming? Still other authors studied available equipment and management methods and relate these to no-tillage systems and applications, large and small. Only when the capabilities of modern no-tillage equipment are understood and fully integrated into a crop production enterprise can it be fully quantified and realistic local recommendations made. Collectively these authors have provided a comprehensive over-view of what makes a successful no-tillage enterprise work. This includes machinery design and operating principles, the interactions of machines with the soil, the importance of parallel inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, and controlled traffic, management of the system as a whole including quantifying the importance of soil carbon and tracking carbon dioxide emissions as a function of soil disturbance. They have also provided a guide to experimental procedures for evaluation of variables. The book is not intended to be a blueprint on how to design any one style of no-tillage machine, component or system. It is a record of the comparative performances of several different machine design options and management practices, tested under controlled scientific conditions, and how these have been found to integrate into a whole no-tillage system. Much of the information is about the biological performance of machines and soils, since both primarily perform biological functions. But mechanical performance is not ignored either. The interface between the two is particularly important. The reader is invited to place his or her own value on the relevance of the data presented. The relevance some of the authors placed on the data led to the design of the disc version of a winged opener, called Cross Slot®. Others will see different things in the data, however independent research and field experience have increasingly shown the data and the conclusions drawn from them have been remarkably accurate and prophetic. The relevance of the book is that it illustrates there are now ways and means to make no-tillage more fail-safe than tillage and to obtain crop yields not only equal to those from tillage but, in many cases, superior. Untilled soils contain greater potential to germinate, establish and grow plants than tilled soils ever did. And of course they are much more environmentally friendly. The problem for mankind has been to learn and understand how to harness that potential. We hope this book goes some way towards achieving that objective. The book expands on the first edition, entitled No-Tillage Seeding: Science and Practice (Baker, Saxton and Ritchie, ISBN number 0 85199 103 3, first published by CAB International in 1996 and reprinted in 2002). C. John Baker and Keith E. Saxton