Conservation agriculture

| May 15, 2017

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Two Farmer stories this week discuss conservation agriculture (CA), which is an approach to managing farm ecosystems. CA emphasizes protecting the soil—and the environment in general—for increased productivity. The three main principles of CA are:

  • minimal mechanical disturbance of the soil (low-till or no-till)
  • permanent organic soil cover (with crop residues or other soil cover)
  • diversification of crop species grown in rotation and / or associations (crop rotation or intercropping)

While plowing or tilling the soil has been assumed to increase fertility, it reduces soil organic matter in the long term. Soil organic matter provides nutrients to the crop and is important in stabilizing soil structure. This is why CA emphasizes either no-till or minimum tillage. It also recommends leaving crop residues on the field to protect soil from sun and wind, and using cover crops to manage weeds.

Learn more about CA, and its connection to integrated pest management, in this resource from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The document provides a good explanation and background, as well as information about using cover crops, CA equipment, and integrating livestock.