Reduced tillage eliminates the primary cultivation with the plough.
Although it offers the advantage of reduced cultivations and is generally more time-efficient compared with a plough-based system, reduced tillage still involves several passes of machinery and brings the associated downsides. Firstly, repetitive farm machinery traffic results in loss of soil structure and causes compaction, particularly in wet weather conditions. On poor ground, some of the operations, e.g. cultivating or power harrowing, may need to be carried more than once to achieve the desired results. In such circumstances, up to 2 hours per hectare could still be required to prepare a good seedbed, despite the elimination of the ploughing step.
Reduced tillage mixes the straw into the surface. This, combined with the effect of numerous passes, dries the ground out, depriving the seed of moisture. The presence of crop residue in the top layer of soil also presents the risk of contamination which is detrimental to crop germination.