I just want to start by saying that I have a lot of experience with no till gardening and farming. I do hugelkultur, lasagna gardening, and I've seen a lot of Back to Eden gardening. I've seen the good, the bad, and the great.
But, I've also been in a position where the need for producing food was great, and I had to grow a lot of food without much time to prepare, and I didn't have the resources (large amounts of cardboard and good mulch) to prepare enough area such that I could grow enough with no till. And I certainly didn't have the labor to dig all those hugelbeds on my own (I also lacked the wood and organic matter for them anyway). In that situation I made do with what I had available, but it was an experience which got me thinking.
If I had to grow a lot of food for myself and other people, I think I would have to till. Tilling worries me, mostly because I'm very afraid of eroding my soil. But I can see how tilling can save an enormous amount of materials and labor in its own way.
So I wanted to ask someone who does till, and whose farming methods are largely respected and considered sustainable, what they think about tilling. Joseph Lofthouse does tilling at his farm.
So, Joseph, I guess my first question is: What do you think about erosion and tilling? How do you prevent it? Do you think you've had erosion loss since tilling at your farm?
My second question is: What about water retention? I've always been told that tilling can dry out the soil. I know water is a limiting factor for you, so how do you address this?
As an aside, I've been to places in Italy and China where tilled agriculture has been practiced for thousands of years continuously. I'm not sure if the nutrition in the food has gone down, but these examples exist.