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History of Conservation Tillage

(project status: ongoing)

The KIS Project started working with Richard Gray, Bernie Sonntag and Wayne Lindwall in June 2008 on a project proposal that would compile a written history of the conservation tillage movement in Western Canada. The lead for the conference portion of this project was KIS Project Coordinator Lynette Keyowski; the book is being managed by Bernie Sonntag, Wayne Lindwall and Kathy Larson.

The evolution of reduced tillage technologies is one of Canadian agriculture's biggest success stories. To help address the impacts of soil erosion, moisture conservation, nutrient depletion, and fuel use associated with traditional tillage systems, farmers have systematically adopted improved technologies that would minimize soil disturbance. The innovation of reduced tillage technology has its roots firmly embedded on the Prairies and particularly in Saskatchewan where many of the pioneers of reduced tillage systems were in fact innovative producers who recognized the production inefficiencies of traditional tillage systems and environmental impact of wind and water erosion. Minimum and zero-tillage technology has been widely adopted and is a mainstay of grain production in the arable areas of the Northern Plains of North America. The successful diffusion of this technology is a result of the efforts of producers, government personnel, agricultural engineers, members of industry associations, soil scientists and machinery manufacturers. In part due to its success in North America, the technology has also found its way to such places as Australia, South America and countries of the former Soviet Union.

Despite the fact that the evolution of reduced tillage has been one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the 20th century, the innovation and technology transfer processes that the technology underwent has never been formally examined or documented, neither from an historical perspective, nor as a successful example of innovative knowledge mobilization. While zero-till is well developed, widely adopted, and supporting a major industry, the question remains - where to from here? As zero-till technology potentially enters a new phase, there is interest from both an industry and academic perspective to examine its evolution, not only to see where it has come from, but in fact, where it might be heading next.

This project has several objectives: 1) to catalogue the history of zero till's evolution and adoption; 2) to analyze the role knowledge creation, sharing and mobilization played in the technology's ultimate success, and to provide evidence of that success; 3) to provide opportunities for stakeholders, past and present, to collaborate and share past experiences as well as ideas for the future; 4) to become a clearinghouse and provide useful media for information regarding zero tillage - past, present and future.

Specific activities proposed to accomplish each of the above objectives include:

Academic Research: This initiative is funding one PhD level student (Ms. Lana Awada) to conduct research on an aspect of the conservation tillage movement that has a knowledge mobilization component.

Industry & Academic Conference: A 1-day conference was held in March 2009 and featured invited presentations from those that were instrumental in the development of conservation tillage technology; academic analyses of the innovation and adoption processes of zero till, from past to present; and a consideration of what the future might hold for the technology.

Website Development: A website with videoclips, graphics, and interactive components showcasing the technology of zero till, from its history to current work and future developments. The website will also act as the clearinghouse to facilitate dissemination of conference proceedings, online discussion and collaboration among participants.

Book: The book will share the historical account of the technology's evolution; provide evidence of the technology's benefits and hypothesize on the future uses and benefits of zero-tillage. The book will be a collaborative effort of individuals invited to contribute chapters or part of chapters for the book.

For more information:
Visit the conference website to view Quicktime vidoes of the presentations »CT Conference Website

Kathy Larson: Click to email Kathy Larson


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