Backgrounder: Using conservation tillage and soil cover in Conservation agriculture

| January 15, 2018

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This week’s Farmer stories from Malawi and Zambia feature conservation agriculture. Our Script of the week is a Backgrounder that goes into more depth about two of the key practices in conservation agriculture: conservation tillage and soil cover.

Conservation tillage typically involves either making planting basins by hand, or using ox- or tractor-drawn tools called rippers. Details on both of these approaches are included in the Key information section of the backgrounder.

Using conservation tillage has the following benefits:

  • Better maintenance of soil organic matter, resulting in improved soil fertility.
  • Improved soil structure.
  • Deeper root development because of increased earthworm activity and the roots of deep-rooting green manure plants.
  • Reduced operating costs on the farm compared to conventional tillage, for example, reduced fuel costs.

Conservation tillage allows farmers to maintain soil cover. If you maintain a minimum soil cover on 30% of your land, the combination of conservation tillage and soil cover leads to the following benefits:

  • Reduced soil erosion
  • Reduced water run-off / loss of water
  • Better water infiltration and storage in the soil
  • Prevention of overheating of the soil surface
  • More abundant soil life
  • Reduced labour cost

Like all Backgrounders, this one is designed to provide you with basic information about particular practices, plus references for further, more in-depth information. It will also help you create programs on conservation agriculture.