Agriculture has traditionally been practised by ploughing the land to prepare it for the upcoming season or harvest. Do we, however, immediately embrace it when assured that no-tilling will boost our yield? Let’s examine the concept of no-tilling.
No- tillage farming is an agricultural method in which a new crop is sown inside the leftovers of the preceding crop and the topsoil of a field is not tilled after a particular crop has been harvested. The technique is especially crucial in light of recent instances involving the burning of crop residues to clear stubble.
Growing crops or pasture without disturbing the soil through tillage is known as zero-tilling farming, often referred to as no-tillage or straight drilling. With the exception of placing the seeds in the ideal location for germination, the earth is kept untouched. The invention of zero-till farming is attributed to a Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka.
Use case in India:
The no-till method was first used by Indian farmers in the 1960s. The zero-tillage strategy is employed in the Indo-Gangetic plains, where rice-wheat farming is done. Once the rice has been harvested, wheat will be sown naturally. The same technique is being used by hundreds of farmers to raise yields and profits while cutting cultivation costs. The Zero Tilling System is used for rice-maize planting in the southern districts of the state of Andhra Pradesh, including Guntur and certain areas of West Godavari.
For zero tillage to be successful, the equipment required to drill seed in uncultivated ground is essential. During the Kharif season, zero tillage works best for direct-seeded rice, maize, soybean, cotton, pigeonpea, mungbean, clusterbean, pearl millet, and wheat; barley, chickpea, mustard, and lentil during the rabi season.
Raju Titus, a farmer from Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh has been practicing no-till farming since 1985 and has never looked back since then. He has proved how no-till farming has been beneficial for the mankind and the earth. He explains how weeds act as a natural fertilizer. No-till farming has also helped him in eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides and even reduces the need for irrigation. Read more about him here.
A report published by the Hindu explains how farmers can save ₹180 crore through zero tillage farming.
How it works?
The remnant of the previous crop is left on top of the field in preparation for the upcoming planting season. To protect the soil from damage from the sun, frost, or other activities on the farm, leftovers from the previous crop are dispersed over the land.
The soil is typically not tilled at all when no-tillage farming is used; all that is needed is to spread the harvest residue on the field and wait for planting season. In order to cover the fields while the primary crop is being prepped for planting, green cover crops are usually sown during no-tillage planting. Planning and consideration must go into the usage of any machinery in no-till farming. With no-tillage farming, crop irrigation is not usually necessary since the residue left on the field keeps soil moisture from evaporating. It also contains more water than the last time it rained on the field.
It enables the preservation of the soil’s structural integrity.
By leaving the crop residue on the earth’s surface, it also protects the soil.
The soil’s capacity to absorb and permeate water is improved by this. As a result, erosion and runoff are reduced.
It stops contaminants from getting into nearby water sources.
No-tilling improves rainwater absorption and irrigation effectiveness because it decreases evaporation. More yields would result from this, particularly in hot, dry areas.
Another benefit relates to the microorganisms and other animals that inhabit the soil and are essential to its health. These live things may perish through tilling or experience disruption.
Moreover, the costs of labour, irrigation, fuel, and machinery are reduced with no-till farming.
No-till farming may assist reduce the growth of weeds. Yet, most weeds continue to grow in no-till fields and require chemical treatment.
Most individuals prefer to continue using conventional tillage and perceive no-till farming to be unjust or impossible.
In some areas, it can take some time before no-till farming pays off. For instance, it will take some time—even after only one season—to notice some gains in yields if a farm has not been farmed for decades.
Fields have traditionally been used to raise crops, which are then utilised for grazing or bailing.
If a farmer chooses to engage in no-till farming, they are unable to raise grass crops or benefit cattle on their fields.
Natural resources are valuable and should be used efficiently and sustainably. In this scenario, zero tillage is a possible technique. Although the damage of using non-selective herbicides is greater, it has less impact than conventional agricultural methods. With no tillage, more profits can be made, and crops can be grown on schedule and with higher yields. Zero tillage has been found to increase farmer earnings and cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by more than 75%.