This week’s Farmer stories discuss conservation agriculture (CA), a farming approach that emphasizes protecting the soil—and the environment in general—for increased productivity. The three main principles of CA are:
• minimal soil disturbance (low-till or no-till)
• permanent soil cover (with crop residues or other soil cover)
• crop rotation and/or intercropping
While plowing or tilling the soil has been assumed to increase fertility, it actually 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. CA also recommends leaving crop residues on the field to protect soil from sun and wind, and using cover crops to manage weeds.
Read some common questions and answers about the advantages and challenges of CA in this resource from Canadian Foodgrains Bank: https://foodgrainsbank.ca/conservation-agriculture-q-a/ 
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. http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/index.html 
Photo: Young men in Mchemwa village, Tanzania, practice conservation agriculture. Photo by Sylvister Domasa