An Agricultural Research Service study found that under the right management, reduced corn yields can bring in higher profits.
Soil scientists Ardell Halvorson and Arvin Mosier measured trace gases being emitted from conventional and no-till corn systems in an attempt to determine the impact of tilling on global warming. Reduced tillage can bring up levels of soil carbon, they found, and no-till soils sequestered significantly more carbon than conventionally tilled soils.
The scientists also studied the effects of nitrogen application on both conventional and no-till irrigated continuous corn yields. They found more benefits in no-till systems, such as reduced soil erosion and fuel use, but they also found that no-till lagged about 23 bushels per acre behind the conventional till plots.
However, ARS economist David Archer found that under no-till, net savings through reduced labor and equipment and fossil fuel use were $83 per acre - enough to compensate for lower yields and still turn a profit.