Before primary tillage

After primary tillage

After second tillage pass




No-tillage and plant cover prevent burning of carbon

Amount of carbon increases

Amount of carbon decreases

  • humus content of soil increases
  • plant residues on soil surface protect and nourish micro-organisms
  • in ploughed soil 0.77 t/ha/year, which in connection with oxidation emits into the atmosphere 2.85 t/ha carbon dioxide

Untilled soil is a carbon sink

Tillage releases carbon dioxide

  • undisturbed soil and plant residues on field surface prevents burning of carbon
  • as amount of organic matter and carbon increases the soil structure is improved
  • tilling makes the soil porous
  • the oxygen in the air reacts with carbon in the soil and forms carbon dioxide
  • as carbon is reduced, the soil structure is impaired

Photos: ECAF




Lähde: Justus-Liebig -yliopisto, Giessen, tri Tebrügge



Justus-Liebig -yliopisto, Giessen, dr Tebrügge

Emissions to bodies of water

Real Direct Seeding increases the integrity of soil: the crumbs are stuck together so the nutrients and sediment do not easily run off with the water. The soil surface is covered by plants throughout the year and the stubble and plant residues shield the crumbs from raindrops. The plant cover prevents breakout of topsoil and translocation of sediment. In addition, the plant cover allows water time to infiltrate into the soil pores.

As the soil structure improves and the plough sole disappears, the soil will soak up the water and nutrients to a deeper level. The runoff of water and transfer of nutrients and sediment from the field is reduced. The studies have shown that a sound soil even reduces the flooding of rivers.

The soil binds nutrients to humus and other organic matter. The increased activity of micro-organisms breaks up the nutrients for disposal of plants, fertilizes the soil with leavings, increases the fertility of the soil and reduces the requirement for chemical fertilizer input.

Ploughing and tilling break the integrity of the soil: the soil particles are loose and susceptible to erosion. Rain and melting water loosen nutrients and sediment from unprotected soil and transfer them to bodies of water.

Emissions to atmosphere

Ploughing and tilling make the soil mellow and loose. The oxygen in the soil efficiently combines with the carbon in the soil organic matter. Carbon dioxide is formed as a result of this biologic oxidation. According to studies, on average 0,77 tons of carbon burns per hectare and year in ploughed soil. The oxidation factor of carbon is 3,7, which means that of the 0,77 tons of carbon per hectare of ploughed soil, 2,85 tons of carbon dioxide are formed.

During the tractor-era, the carbon content of soil has decreased by 30-50%. As a result the soils have compacted and their crop production ability has been impaired. The ploughing and tilling depth affect the sequestration of carbon. In deep ploughing the gas exchange is more active. Therefore, more carbon dioxide is formed. In minimally tilled soil it is formed correspondingly less.

Soil where Real Direct Seeding has been applied produces only a small amount of carbon dioxide. Like forests, the soil acts as a carbon sink.

Soil where Real Direct Seeding has been applied is solid and "breathes" in a natural way through pores created by microbial activity and plant roots. As no loosening by ploughing takes place, the harmful creation of carbon dioxide does not occur.

Real Direct Seeding acts as a carbon sink. The plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and lead carbon compounds to the soil via their roots. As the plant residues are rich in carbon decay, they form new organic matter and carbon in the soil.

Real Direct Seeding reduces the environmental impact

Runoff -69%
Herbicides -70%
Nitrogen >-85%
Phosphates >-65%
Leaching of sediment -93%

Institut für Landtechnik der Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen
Landwirtschaft ohne Plug - 4/2001


Environmental subsidy
The best way to cut down the emissions to bodies of water is to reduce tilling and keep the fields covered by plants during autumn rains and the runoff of melting waters in spring.
Non-tilled and plant-covered soil acts like a protective zone all over, retaining the nutrients and sediments. But if the soil is tilled, the nutrients and sediment are readily translocated from the soil without plant cover into bodies of water by rain and melting waters. The protective zones by the bodies of water and the settlement ponds can hardly stop the nutrients on the move. It is much easier to adopt farming practices that do not involve tilling and leave the soil surface covered by plants the year round, such as direct seeding.

There are good reasons for granting a specific environmental subsidy for keeping the soil plant covered all-year-round - it encourages farmers to adopt farming practices that are less harmful to the environment.

No-tillage farming, i.e. direct seeding, involves killing perennial weeds with glyphosate. Only a small amount, 1-2 litres per hectare, is applied in spring. The glyphosate compound, applied to the field surface in summer, breaks down and is converted to nourishment for bacteria, microbes and plants. The herbicides, spread to the field surface, combine with the organic matter on the surface and break up during summer in a natural way. The reduced runoff of water and sediments cuts down the transfer of herbicides to bodies of water.

Most of the phosphorous – about 75% – is transferred into the bodies of water by sediment. In no-tillage farming, the transfer of phosphorous is decreased by 90%. The fact that the amount of soluble phosphorous on the field surface increases does not have a significant adverse effect because, as the runoff reduces, the soluble phosphorous will also remain on the field, bound with the organic matter and total emission of phosphorous into bodies of water decreases by 65%

Source: Justus-Liebig University, Germany