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Analysis of No-Till: The Quiet Revolution


There are many different debates happening in the agriculture industry today, tractor and implement companies, seed companies, and techniques and practices are among the most common. Every debate has a seed of practicality embedded in it somewhere; however much of the conflict is based in company loyalties. Take the rivalry between John Deere and IH. When you look at the actual statistics: fuel efficiency, horsepower, torque, etc., one of them will win in each division. Yet most people discussing which is superior are simply arguing for the side that their family uses, the one they know about, or the one with the prettiest colors. However, one of the more fact-based debates is that of tillage practices. Tillage is the practice of preparing the soil by mechanical agitation by some method, such as stirring, digging, or overturning. Since there isnt really any brand loyalty in this situation, debates are usually much more proof-oriented. By far the largest debate within the division of tillage practices is the controversy over no-tillage (no-till) vs. conventional tillage. In the past, conventional tillage practices were much more widely practiced. But now, no-till methods are making a name for themselves and becoming much more popular in todays agricultural industry. David R. Huggins and John P. Reganold discuss the history and the controversy behind this debate in their Scientific American article No-Till: The Quiet Revolution. The article begins by giving a brief history of tillage practices in American agriculture. In the very first days of American agriculture, the tillage was an integral part of the planting process. The soil would be till and the seeds would be placed all in the same process. As the practice progressed, the two diverged into distinctly different processes. Tillage became a practice that was purposed

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around controlling weeds and preparing the soil for the next planting season. Then an entirely different procedure and machine would come to actually place the seeds in the ground. Once tillage became its own separate entity, the size and materials of machines evolved to last longer and move more soil. This is actually when John Deere, made his debut into the agricultural manufacturing industry. He owned a moldboard plow, a plow with curved blades designed to invert the soil, but the blades kept wearing out too quickly. He invented a similarly shaped blade that was made out of steel, which lasted much longer than the previously used materials. He then shifted into manufacturing on a much larger scale and the company has since developed into one of the worlds largest agricultural companies. The article then moves on to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both no-till and conventional tillage practices in todays agricultural industry. One of the biggest concerns of these practices is weed control. Conventional tillage practices uproot weeds just before the winter season so that nothing is growing when the spring planting season comes. However, this requires large, heavy, fuelthirsty machines to pull the tillage implements. With todays technology in herbicides and pesticides, it is extremely plausible to simply spray or inject the fields with weed preventatives. When using these methods, the tractors and implements do not cause as much soil compaction nor do they use as much fuel. Another large concern is the organic matter conservation aspect of the methods. Conventional methods will bury the leftover plant material, while no-till will leave the plant matter on top of the ground in order to conserve the soil. This also allows for more microbial activity in the surface soil. This helps for nitrogen production, which is another important aspect to growing a healthy crop. The article then ends by introducing statistics from

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studies about both practices including percentages of usage, what areas use which methods the most, and the pros and cons of each process. Huggins and Reganold wrote this piece partly as a magazine article and partly as a research article, so it does not exactly follow the Swales CARS introduction model. However, it still follows the general ideas and concepts of the article. The authors introduce the topic by beginning with a history of the practice. This helps establish the field in which Reganold and Huggins are writing, but it does not necessarily help make it seem relevant. While the history does not help the relevancy, it does increase the credibility by giving a good background and summarize previous research and experiences. Once the territory has been established, they move on to establishing their niche. To solidify their niche, they made counter-claims and discuss the pros and cons to both sides of the tillage debate. This begins some raising of questions as to which criteria are more important and the effects of each on the environment, plant, and profit. The tradition behind conventional tillage is also brought to light in the article. With such a deep history being given, it is obvious that conventional tillage practices have been around for a long time. Once it is established, the authors do a fine job of occupying the niche. The importance of the differences between the methods to the agricultural industry is highlighted and the effects each practice could possibly have on the industry. Much of the explanation and description done in this article is done by telling stories and describing firsthand experiences. The article is formatted very much like a magazine article, with education in mind, but a large focus is still on the entertainment aspect. The tone and writing style of the piece is

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professional, but in a friendly way. It reminds me of the relationship between a teacher and a student; the audience is expected to learn, but they are also expected to care about the topic and information. This expectance of caring from the audience says a lot about the agricultural discourses passion. Many of the people involved in agriculture today are very involved and have great interest in their field. Much of the community feels very strongly about their country roots and their ability to provide food for the nation. The conviction in the article would suggest that Reganold and Huggins expect their readers to be just as passionate as they are about their topic. This also shows in their use of agricultural terms, and the wording they choose. The authors do a good job of using niche-specific language without using too much jargon to help ensure that the audience will be able to understand the article. The research referenced in this article had been done prior to the writing of the piece. Very little to no research was done specifically for this article. Many statistics were stated and the studies that they came from were quoted in text, alongside the actual data. No-Till; The Quiet Revolution is very much what would be expected in an agricultural article. The article is written with passion and conviction, and data is given to back up the claims. Much of the data referenced are statistics that mean something to an agriculturalist, but probably would be hard to comprehend for someone outside the discourse. The article was not large nor extremely specific, so none of the referenced research was done exclusively for this article. The introduction of the article followed Swales CARS model very well, with a few exceptions because of the purpose of the article. Because its purpose was not solely to inform, but also to entertain, the introduction methods were slightly different that would be expected

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had this article been designed for a different discourse. In cessation, the article fit the expectations of an article of this type quite well, and did an excellent job representing its topic.

Works Cited Huggins, D.,Reganol, J.(2008).No-Till:The Quiet Revolution. :Nature Publishing Group