Action

Pest regulation: Use no tillage instead of reduced tillage

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    60%
  • Certainty
    53%
  • Harms
    25%

Source countries

Key messages

Pest regulation (0 studies)

Crop damage (0 studies)

Ratio of natural enemies to pests (0 studies)

Pest numbers (6 studies)

  • Weeds (6 studies): Four replicated, controlled studies from Italy, Lebanon, and Spain found fewer weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage, in some or all comparisons. Two of these studies also found more weeds in some comparisons. One replicated, controlled studies from Australia found more weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. One replicated, randomized, controlled study from Spain found similar amounts of weeds in plots with no tillage or reduced tillage.
  • Weed species (3 studies): One replicated, randomized, controlled study from Spain found fewer weed species in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Two replicated, controlled studies from Italy and Spain found similar numbers of weed species in plots with no tillage or reduced tillage.

Natural enemy numbers (1 study): One replicated, randomized, controlled study from the USA found similar numbers of predatory mites in soils with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1997–2001 in a rainfed pea-wheat-barley field near Barcelona, Spain, found similar numbers of weeds in plots with no tillage or reduced tillage. Pest numbers: Similar amounts of weed biomass were found in plots with no tillage or reduced tillage (36 g/m2). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage was used on two plots each (30 x 45 m plots). A chisel plough was used for reduced tillage (15 cm depth). Pre-emergence herbicide was used for no tillage. A seed drill, fertilizer, and post-emergence herbicide were used on all plots. Weeds were sampled each year, when crops were harvested (June–July 1998–2001, 10 quadrats/plot, 0.25 m2 quadrats).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 1993–2006 in an irrigated tomato-maize field in Davis, California, USA, found similar numbers of natural enemies in soils with no tillage or reduced tillage. Natural enemy numbers: Similar numbers of predatory mites were found in soils with no tillage or reduced tillage (14 vs 12 individuals/100 g fresh soil). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage was used on three plots each (reduced: 0.4 ha plots; no tillage: 3 m2 microplots). Plots with reduced tillage were tilled about two times/year (depth not reported). Plots with no tillage were hand weeded. All plots were irrigated. Half of the plots were fertilized, and compost was added to the other half. Soil samples were collected eight times in March 2005–November 2006 (three samples/plot). Mites were sampled with soil cores (5 cm diameter, 10 cm depth).

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2005–2007 in a rainfed field in the central Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, found fewer weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Pest numbers: Fewer weeds were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage (density: 43 vs 113 weeds/m2; dry weight: 34 vs 61 g/m2). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage (shallow disc cultivation, 10 cm depth) was used in four plots each (14 x 6 m), in October. Barley, chickpeas, and safflower were planted in November. Barley and safflower were fertilized (60–100 kg N/ha). Weed density and dry weight were measured on 30 March. Herbicide was used on all plots after sowing the seeds in November 2005. Herbicide was also used, and all plots were hand weeded, after the weed measurements in 2006.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1985–2008 in a rainfed wheat-vetch field near Madrid, Spain, found fewer weed species in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Pest numbers: Fewer weed species were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage (6.7 vs 8.3 species), but no differences in the evenness or diversity of weed communities were found (reported as Pielou’s index and Shannon’s index). Methods: Reduced tillage or no tillage was used on four plots each (20 x 40 m). A cultivator and/or a chisel plough were used for reduced tillage (depths not reported). Pre-emergence herbicide was used for no tillage (and the wheat stubble was chopped, before the vetch was planted). Wheat and vetch were grown in rotation. Post-emergence herbicide was used on all plots, when the wheat was tillering. Fertilizer and a seed drill were used on all plots. Weeds were sampled when wheat was tillering or vetch stems were elongating (February–April 1986–2008, 5–20 samples/plot, 30 x 33 cm sampling areas).

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A replicated, controlled study in 1991–2009 in a rainfed faba bean field in Sicily, Italy, found fewer root parasites, but more weeds, in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Pest numbers: Fewer Orobanche crenata root parasites were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage (7 vs 10 broomrapes/m2), but there were no differences in the weights of root parasites (1.44 vs 1.50 g). More weeds were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage (1.84 vs 1.32 Mg/ha), but there were similar numbers of weed species (16–19 species). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage was used on two plots each (18.5 x 20 m plots). A chisel plough (40 cm depth), a mouldboard plough (15 cm depth, in 1991–1998), and a harrow (depth not reported; before sowing) were used for reduced tillage. Herbicide (before sowing) and a seed drill were used for no tillage. In all plots, a hoe was used to control weeds (depth not reported; 1–2 times/year). Faba beans were grown in rotation with durum wheat. During durum wheat growth, herbicide was used in all plots. All plots were fertilized (46 kg P2O5/ha). Root parasites and weeds were measured in three samples/faba bean plot (four rows/sample, 3 m rows).

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2009–2011 in two irrigated pepper fields in central Italy, found fewer weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage, but tillage had inconsistent effects on weed biomass. Pest numbers: Fewer weeds were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage, in five of eight comparisons (14–50 vs 53–152 plants/m2). Less weed biomass was found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage, in two of eight comparisons (inside pepper rows: 7–37 vs 47–58 g dry matter/m2), but more was found in one of eight comparisons (outside pepper rows: 54 vs 31). Methods: A mouldboard plough (30 cm depth) was used on all plots in autumn, before winter cover crops were planted. Cover crops were mown or chopped in spring, before tillage. No tillage or reduced tillage was used on 12 plots each (6 x 12 m plots), in May 2010–2011. A rotary hoe (10 cm depth) was used for reduced tillage (which incorporated the cover crop residues into the soil). Cover crop residues were mulched and herbicide was used for no tillage. Pepper seedlings were transplanted into the plots in May, and fruits were harvested twice/year in August–October 2010–2011. Weeds were sampled 30 days after transplanting (six samples/plot). All plots were fertilized before the cover crops, but not after. All plots were irrigated.

    Study and other actions tested
  7. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2010–2011 in a rainfed wheat field in Australia found more weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Pest numbers: More weed biomass was found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage (36 vs 20 g/m2). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage was used on three plots each (1.4 x 40 m plots) in 2010, when the plots were fallow. A rotary hoe (12 cm depth) was used for reduced tillage. Herbicide was used for no tillage. Wheat was grown on all plots in 2011. Fertilizer (150 kg/ha) and herbicides were used on all plots in 2011. Weeds were sampled in 2011, when the wheat was mature.

    Study and other actions tested
  8. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1994–2009 in a rainfed pea-cereal field near Madrid, Spain, found fewer weeds in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage. Pest numbers: Fewer weeds were found in plots with no tillage, compared to reduced tillage, in two of four comparisons (5.1–11.9 vs 11.5–15.4 plants/m2). Similar numbers of weed species were found in plots with no tillage or reduced tillage (data reported as an index of species richness). Methods: No tillage or reduced tillage was used on four plots each (each with three 10 x 25 m sub-plots, with different pea-cereal rotations), in October or November. A chisel plough was used for reduced tillage (10 cm depth). A seed drill and herbicide were used for no tillage. The peas were not fertilized. Weeds were identified and counted in four quadrats/sub-plot (0.125 m2 quadrats).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Shackelford, G. E., Kelsey, R., Robertson, R. J., Williams, D. R. & Dicks, L. V. (2017) Sustainable Agriculture in California and Mediterranean Climates: Evidence for the effects of selected interventions. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Mediterranean Farmland

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Mediterranean Farmland
Mediterranean Farmland

Mediterranean Farmland - Published 2017

Mediterranean Farmland synopsis

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, terrestrial mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read latest volume: Volume 17

Go to the CE Journal

Subscribe to our newsletter

Please add your details if you are interested in receiving updates from the Conservation Evidence team about new papers, synopses and opportunities.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust