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Conservation Tillage. AFSIC Find-it Guide.

Compiled by:

Rebecca Thompson
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
Information Research Services Branch
National Agricultural Library
Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Revised October 2021


What is Conservation Tillage?

"Conservation tillage—Any tillage and planting system that covers 30 percent or more of the soil surface with crop residue, after planting, to reduce soil erosion by water. Where soil erosion by wind is the primary concern, any system that maintains at least 1,000 pounds per acre of flat, small grain residue equivalent on the surface throughout the critical wind erosion period.  Two key factors influencing crop residue are (1) the type of crop, which establishes the initial residue amount and its fragility, and (2) the type of tillage operations prior to and including planting."
[From: Agricultural Chemicals and Production Technology: Glossary. USDA. Economic Research Service.

Database and Internet Searches

Conduct automated, real-time, searches in the USDA NAL catalog (AGRICOLA). Select any link to generate a new bibliography. Search the USDA Current Research Information System (CRIS) and the USDA ARS Scientific Manuscript Database. Or, find online materials about conservation tillage practices.


AGRICOLA (AGRICultural Online Access) is a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and its cooperators. The records describe publications and resources encompassing all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines. [Read more about AGRICOLA.]
Search for information on tillage types in the AGRICOLA Book Catalog or Article Citations by date range. Articles include journal articles, reports, book chapters, and reprints. Books include books, serials, audiovisuals, etc. Search strategy:
(("conservation tillage" OR "no-tillage" OR "ridge tillage" OR "mulch till" OR "strip-tillage" OR "rotation tillage") NOT (groundwater OR aquifer))

NAL's Water and Agriculture Information Center also offers automated real-time, dynamic bibliographies on Conservation Tillage.

Browse AGRICOLA by subject heading.

  1. Go to
  2. Select Search for Books or select Search for Articles.
  3. Select "Subject" tab.
  4. Enter a specific word or phrase in the box labeled "Subject".  For example: conservation tillage
  5. Select "Search".

Quick Bibliographies

Before the National Agricultural Library's AGRICOLA database was available online, our staff compiled "quick" subject quick bibliographies (below) to assist with research. These archived QB's identified relevant journal articles, reports, books, and video citations.

  • Conservation Tillage (QB94-13) January 1991 to December 1993. 338 citations
  • How do I search AGRICOLA for other publications on this topic in the National Agricultural Library collection?

Search USDA Databases and Government Websites.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is USDA's main in-house research agency. ARS research develops solutions to a wide range of problems related to food and agriculture. Select a linked word to find USDA or other government resources, read blogs and recent news posts, or search the Internet for information on conservation tillage. [Note: Use the Advanced ARS Search feature to find resources published at a specific ARS location.]

Agricultural Research Service Web

  1. Conservation Tillage
  2. No Tillage
  3. Mulch Tillage
  4. Ridge Tillage
  5. Strip Tillage

United States Department of Agriculture Web

  1. Conservation Tillage
  2. No Tillage
  3. Mulch Tillage
  4. Ridge Tillage
  5. Strip Tillage (All Government)

  1. Conservation Tillage
  2. No Tillage
  3. Mulch Tillage
  4. Ridge Tillage
  5. Strip Tillage

The Current Research Information System (CRIS)

The Current Research Information System (CRIS) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's documentation and reporting system for ongoing and recently completed research projects in agriculture, food and nutrition, and forestry.

To conduct a keyword search in the TITLE or DESCRIPTOR fields, follow these steps:

Copy one of the following search strategies:
TI,DE=conservation ADJ tillage
TI,DE=mulch ADJ tillage
TI,DE=no ADJ tillage
TI,DE=ridge ADJ tillage
TI,DE=strip ADJ tillage

  1. Access the CRIS database.
  2. Select Professional Search.
  3. Select the Edit button beside Search Number S1.
  4. Paste the search strategy copied in Step 1 into the search box.
  5. Select the OK button.
  6. Select the Display button to view the results.
  7. Optional: Select the Change Format button to choose a different display format or to customize your format using selected data fields.

ARS Scientific Manuscript Database

The ARS Scientific Manuscript Database, formerly known as "TEKTRAN", captures the latest ARS published research results. The scientific database is updated daily.

  1. Go to the Scientific Manuscript Database Search Page
  2. Search for a scientific manuscript by looking for a keyword in the title, abstract, author, or all of those fields. Find manuscripts on "Conservation Tillage".
  3. Explore manuscripts by strategical topical areas. Topic: Conservation Tillage

Search Tips

The tips below will help you create your own search strategies to conduct literature searches.

Recommended Keywords and Phrases

  • (conservation till*) or (mulch till*) or (no till*) or (ridge tillage) or (strip till*)
  • The NAL Agricultural Thesaurus is an online vocabulary look-up tool for agricultural and biological terms. The Thesaurus is organized to help find terms in a specific discipline or subject area. The Thesaurus features automated Google Scholar searches for each term.
    • NAL Thesaurus Terms
      • Term: conservation tillage
        Broader Term: tillage
        Narrower Terms: no-tillage; ridge tillage; strip tillage
        Related Terms: agricultural conservation practice; conservation practices; soil conservation
  • Refine your search with related keywords and phrases (See also: Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms, or check the AGROVOC Multilingual agricultural thesaurus).

Recommended Databases and Journals *

  • The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center maintains a directory of databases that are related to sustainable and alternative agriculture.

Free online databases

  • AGRICultural OnLine Access (AGRICOLA) contains bibliographic records created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library and its cooperators.
  • AGRIS is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • The Current Research Information System (CRIS) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's documentation and reporting system for ongoing agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research.

Fee-based online databases

(Contact AFSIC to request assistance with database searches.)

  • Biological & Agricultural Index
  • BIOSIS Previews
  • CAB Abstracts
  • Current Contents
  • Water Resources Abstracts

Selected Journals

* How to Borrow Materials from the National Agricultural Library

Extension and Education Materials: online sources

"The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes."

Related Information Sources and Organization