Zero Tillage is a farming system that promotes maintenance of a permanent soil cover, minimum soil disturbance (i.e. no tillage), and diversification of plant species. It enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contributes to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production.

Zero Tillage
Source: Wikipedia

What is tillage?

  • Tillage is an agriculture land preparation through mechanical agitation which includes digging, stirring and overturning.
  • Zero tillage is the process where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present. Zero tillage not only reduce the cost of cultivation it also reduces the soil erosion, crop duration and irrigation requirement and weed effect which is better than tillage. Zero Tillage (ZT) also called No Tillage or Nil Tillage.

No Till Farming / Zero Tillage / Direct Drilling

  • An agricultural technique for growing crops or pasture without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till farming decreases the amount of soil erosion tillage causes in certain soils, especially in sandy and dry soils on sloping terrain. Other possible benefits include an increase in the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil, soil retention of organic matter, and nutrient cycling. These methods may increase the amount and variety of life in and on the soil. Typically, no-tillage systems require the use of very large amounts of herbicides to control weeds.

  • Tillage is dominant in agriculture today, but no-till methods may have success in some contexts. In some cases minimum tillage or “low-till” methods combine till and no-till methods. For example, some approaches may use shallow cultivation (i.e. using a disc harrow) but no plowing or use strip tillage.

  • No-till farming is widely used in the United States and the number of acres managed in this way continues to grow. This growth is supported by a decrease in costs. No-till management results in fewer passes with equipment, and the crop residue prevents evaporation of rainfall and increases water infiltration into the soil.

Advantages of zero tillage

  1. Reduction in the crop duration and thereby early cropping can be obtained to get higher yields.
  2. Reduction in the cost of inputs for land preparation and therefore a saving of around 80%.
  3. Residual moisture can be effectively utilized and number of irrigations can be reduced.
  4. Dry matter and organic matter get added to the soil.
  5. Environmentally safe – Greenhouse effect will get reduced due to carbon sequestration.
  6. No tillage reduces the compaction of the soil and reduces the water loss by runoff and prevent soil erosion.
  7. As the soil is intact and no disturbance is done, No Till lands have more useful flora and fauna.

Significance and benefits of Conservation Agriculture

  • Facilitates good agronomy, such as timely operations, and improves overall land husbandry for rainfed and irrigated production.
  • Complemented by other known good practices, including the use of quality seeds, and integrated pest, nutrient, weed and water management, etc., CA is a base for sustainable agricultural production intensification.
  • It opens increased options for integration of production sectors, such as crop-livestock integration and the integration of trees and pastures into agricultural landscapes.

Zero tillage in India

  • No Till approach started from 1960s by farmers in India.
  • The zero-tillage system is being followed in the Indo-Gangetic plains where rice-wheat cropping is present.
  • Wheat will be planted after rice harvest without any operation.
  • Hundreds of farmers are following the same system and getting more yields and profits by reducing the cost of cultivation.
  • In South, the outhern districts like Guntur and some parts of West Godavari of Andhra Pradesh state  follow the ZT system  in rice-maize cropping system.
  • The green revolution paved the way for the rice-wheat production system in the north-western parts of India. But in due course of time, the yields of rice and wheat become stagnant due to inappropriate soil and water management system and late planting of wheat, as in the hot season rice is being grown and in the winter wheat follows the rice.
  • In 1990’s the zero tillage came to mitigate the problem, by planting the wheat by drilling without any land preparation and tillage.
  • The success of zero tillage depends on the machinery to drill seed in the uncultivated land. In late 1980’s, CIMMYT introduced a prototype for drilling the seed. In India, the first localized seed drill was manufactured by GB Pant University with a motor to reduce the cost and make it available and affordable. The drills are tractor drawn and used in rice-wheat cropping system.
  • Zero tillage proves better for direct-seeded rice, maize, soybean, cotton, pigeonpea, mungbean, clusterbean, pearlmillet during kharif season and wheat, barley, chickpea, mustard and lentil during rabi season.
  • Wheat sowing after rice can be advanced by 10-12 days by adopting this technique compared to conventionally tilled wheat, and wheat yield reduction caused by late sowing can be avoided. ZT provides opportunity to escape wheat crop from terminal heat stress.

Source: Vikaspedia