Extensive use of no-tillage in grain growing regions of Australia

Rick Llewellyn, Frank D'Emden, Geoffrey Kuehne

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    143 Citations (Scopus)


    The shift to agricultural systems involving no-tillage from those based on multiple cultivations has required decades and is ongoing. This paper examines the enabling factors for the adoption of no-tillage cropping systems including the demand-induced innovation by farmers and agricultural engineers, enabling agronomic technologies such as herbicides and crop disease resistance, extension processes, and economic influences. The first section draws upon existing studies from grain producing regions to demonstrate the multiple dimensions and lags involved in achieving such a major change in agricultural practice. In the second section, we identify and quantify the major agronomic and socio-economic drivers of no-tillage adoption rates in Australia. Analysis of data collected from 1170 grain growers across 19 Australian grain growing regions is used to characterise current no-tillage adoption by regions and the its extent of use. Cumulative adoption curves show that the proportion of farmers using at least some no-tillage has started to plateau near 90% in several regions, while in others, a much lower proportion of farmers have adopted or expect to adopt in the medium term future. Many Australian growers use some no-tillage but maintain a high degree of flexibility in their approach to soil disturbance and respond to economic and seasonal drivers. The results suggest that the same extension and diffusion processes that have led to the current high adoption by farmers in some regions may not lead to further adoption of no-tillage in all regions. Soil erosion, for example, was an important motivating factor early in the development of no-tillage but is not found to be a major factor differentiating adopters and non-adopters in the later stages of technology diffusion. Increasingly, the constraint to more extensive use of no-tillage is the extent of use by existing adopters. Factors relating to disease risks and weed management are identified as important. The long and knowledge intensive innovation process for no-tillage systems has led to remarkable changes in agricultural landscapes. It is an ongoing process that continues in later-adopting regions and in sustaining extensive use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)204-212
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2012


    • Adoption
    • Conservation agriculture
    • Farming systems
    • Innovation
    • No-tillage
    • Tillage


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