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Is No Till Farming Good for Wildlife?

Rows of growing wheatThroughout the American Midwest, grassland has transformed into farmland. This has led to a massive decline in the abundance and diversity of wildlife. With the introduction of a no tillage farming system, the future of grassland bird species is not grim. Based on a study published in the Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment Journal, it looks like some have adjusted remarkably well to no till fields of soybean.

No Till System to the Rescue

Tilling is a method wherein farmers eliminate weed and loosen the soil before they begin to seed the ground, but no till system avoids such process. The farmers leave detritus from the harvest of the season on the field. It can serve as the ideal foundation for bird’s nests. These birds would nest in fields that went through the no till process compared to the tilled ones.

The Unanticipated Discoveries

Kelly R. VanBeek was the researcher who led the study to accomplish her master’s thesis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was surprised to find out the degree to which these birds used no till fields. She also didn’t expect the bird species that were nesting there and their nest success compared to what they would deem as quality habitat.
The director of the Office of Resource Conservation at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources named James Herkert revealed that the diversity of species was astounding. He mentioned that they have been trying to conserve some of these species, including upland sandpiper, eastern meadowlark, and dickcissel.

On both types of fields, they noted that the most common were American Robin nests. They shared that this was also an unexpected find because robins usually like nesting in shrubs and trees. Herkert says that this revelation just goes to show how adaptable these birds are and how beneficial no tillage is to wildlife.

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