Farmers are thinking twice about working the earth this fall, thanks in part to record diesel prices, according to an article on Farm Progress.

The most recent data from the U.S. Energy Administration shows the price of No. 2 Diesel has decreased sharply since June (from $5.745 per gallon to $4.993 per gallon as of September), but remains higher than the previous record high set in 2008 ($4.703 per gallon).

That's pushing farmers to reconsider whether or not to till, according to the Farm Progress article.

“Fuel is an input that farmers buy — no different than nitrogen or phosphorus or herbicides,” says Jack Hardwick, agronomist with Nutrien Ag. “It has to be used to run everything on the farm, and so as a line item, if that input goes up significantly, people start wondering how to more efficiently manage that input.”

Even farmers who aren't dedicated no-tillers are weighing reductions as a result, Amanda Kautz, district conservationist with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indian, told Farm Progress.

“Diesel fuel was $4.99 per gallon locally at press time and seems to be continuing upward,” she says. “A no-till cropping system uses, on average, fewer than 2 gallons of diesel fuel per acre. Conventional tillage systems consume over 6 gallons per acre. That is about a $20-per-acre reduction in fuel costs. Even if you aren’t ready for no-till, removing one tillage pass will result in fuel savings.”

In some cases, growers appear to be moving from conventional tillage to disking for their fields.

Of course, long-time no-tillers and strip-tillers are already out in front of fuel prices.

Tom Stribling of Ashland, Ill., says he's no-tilled an strip-tilled since the 1990s, and that's helped.

“The less tillage we do, we’re cutting down on trips, so it saves on diesel expense,” he says. “It works in our situation, and I’m glad we’re doing it. I think our ground’s gotten better. I’m happy with our yields, and we don’t need the deep tillage like we used to.”

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