Why Direct Seed

The agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits of direct seeding help to improve the sustainability of farming in the region. Sustainable agriculture supports rural economies, the environment, and the overall Quality of Life in the Pacific Northwest.

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Direct seeding refers to farming systems that fertilize and plant directly into undisturbed soil in one field operation or two separate operations of fertilizing and planting. Only narrow strips of soil are disturbed by the equipment openers used to place fertilizer and seed in the soil without full-width tillage. Much of the residue from the previous crop is retained on the soil surface. The reduced soil disturbance and retention of surface crop residues with direct seed systems provide improved environmental protection while maintaining or increasing soil productivity, and reducing production costs for farmers.

The agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits of direct seeding help to improve the sustainability of farming in the region. Sustainable agriculture supports rural economies, the environment, and the overall Quality of Life in the Pacific Northwest.

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Improve Soil Quality and Plant Health

In addition to controlling cropland soil erosion, direct seed cropping systems also improve soil quality through minimized soil disturbance and increased retention of crop residues. Increased organic matter and soil porosity improve soil macro and micro fauna diversity, activity, and earthworm populations can increase dramatically in some areas, further enhancing soil fertility and porosity. The maze of tunnels, old root channels, and pathways greatly increase the soil’s water holding capacity. Many earthworms will produce 79 tons of castings/acre/year. Nutrients in earthworm castings include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Often, long term direct seed growers report using 30% LESS nitrogen fertilizer to grow the same amount of crop as the conventional grower. Similarly, dry land no-till growers frequently report that as much as 25% MORE water is stored in the soil matrix where it is available to grow better crops. Irrigated no-till growers need to apply LESS water and have experienced greatly increased “water transmissibility”.

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Improve Water Quality

Reduced soil disturbance and increased retention of crop residues on the soil surface improve soil porosity, water infiltration and holding capacity, and can reduce erosion from water and wind by 90% or more. This results in fewer sedimentation ditches, streams, rivers, and lakes. Reduced sedimentation improves fish habitat and minimizes the need for dredging. Less soil erosion also reduces the offsite movement of agricultural chemicals tied to the soil particles.

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Improve Air Quality

Direct seeding leaves crop residue on the surface and improves air quality by reducing wind erosion and consequently particulate matter; minimize fuel consumption and emissions, and reducing the need to burn fields to seed into last year’s crop residue. Direct seeding also reduces the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. High-disturbance tillage accelerates the biological decomposition of soil organic matter and crop residue, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide as a byproduct to the atmosphere and a decline in soil organic matter content over time. Direct seeding can reverse this process of carbon loss and sequester carbon in the soil while reducing the release of greenhouse gases and increasing soil organic matter.

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Improve Wildlife Habitat

Wildlife diversity and numbers have been shown to increase in areas where direct seeding is practiced. Benefits include crop residue in the form of cover and food, fewer disturbances from equipment, crop diversity, cleaner water, and air. This provides a favorable habitat for wildlife, such as game and nongame birds, big game animals, such as deer, small mammals, and fish species. The reduction of soil disturbance and the reduction of insecticides promote more diversity of beneficial insects including a higher proportion of predators and fewer herbivores.

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Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Direct seeding in one-two passes (rather than five-six passes) by conventional farmers reduces fossil fuel consumption and emissions an average 3.5 gallons of diesel an acre (or 8,750 gallons on a 2,500-acre farm each year). Studies show it also kept between 0.5 and 0.66 tons (per acre) of CO2 per year. This is the equivalent to not burning about a 20-gallon tank of gasoline per acre per year. The cost of repairing, purchasing, and hence manufacturing new equipment declines with less use. In irrigated areas, improved water conservation reduces irrigation needs, cutting power use.

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Assist in Salmon Recovery

The PNDSA recognizes the importance of several salmon species in the tri-state region and believes agriculture can play a key role in the process of recovery. Conservation farming practices including direct seeding can help bring endangered salmon species back to our rivers. The importance of water quality in promoting better spawning conditions is critical to that recovery. Direct seeding contributes directly to salmon recovery through the reduction of erosion and improvement of spawning habitat. We support the formation of collaborative partner arrangements with entities interested in environmental improvement that will directly enhance salmon recovery through improved production practices. Environmentally, direct seeding is the best choice for farming in most regions.

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