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The uptake of different tillage practices in England


Professor of Soil Physics

Professor of Agricultural Economics


Reduced tillage systems have been argued to provide several potential benefits to soil, environment and to farm incomes. In England, while many farms have partially adopted such practices, a large proportion of arable farmers do not undertake reduced tillage in any form. This paper analyses the rationale for and uptake of different cultivation techniques, including analysis of the barriers to adoption of reduced tillage, aiming to benefit policy makers and researchers and increase the spread of smart agricultural practices. Based on a postal questionnaire, we estimated that 47.6% of English arable land is cultivated using minimum‐tillage and 7% under no‐tillage. As farm size increased, so did the probability of reduced tillage uptake. Furthermore, farms growing combinable crops were more likely to utilise reduced tillage approaches than other farm types. Soil type, weed control and weather conditions were noted as the main drivers for ‘strategic' and ‘rotational' ploughing, constraining continuous reduced tillage use. To effect greater reduced tillage uptake, greater communication between researchers and farmers is needed to facilitate the implementation of sustainable soil management solutions, supported by current legislation permitting responsible herbicide use in arable production. Financial support to access reduced tillage machinery may also be required for farmers operating smaller holdings. Adopting reduced tillage is a continuous learning process requiring ongoing training and information‐gathering; supporting a network of reduced tillage ‘farmer champions' would facilitate practical knowledge exchange, allow farmers to observe soil improvements, understand transition phase barriers, and ultimately encourage increased reduced tillage uptake.


Alskaf, K., Sparkes, D. L., Mooney, S. J., Sjögersten, S., & Wilson, P. (2020). The uptake of different tillage practices in England. Soil Use and Management, 36(1), 27-44.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 6, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 9, 2019
Publication Date 2020-01
Deposit Date Aug 12, 2019
Publicly Available Date Aug 10, 2020
Journal Soil Use and Management
Print ISSN 0266-0032
Electronic ISSN 1475-2743
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 1
Pages 27-44
Keywords Agronomy and Crop Science; Soil Science; Pollution
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Alskaf, K, Sparkes, DL, Mooney, SJ, Sjögersten, S, Wilson, P. The uptake of different tillage practices in England. Soil Use Manage. 2020; 36: 27– 44. https​:// This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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