Optimal tillage practices for increasing crop yields
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Background & introduction
Conventional agricultural practices, despite their benefits for crop yield, are known to cause increased GHG emissions, water/air pollution and depleted soil fertility, thereby affecting human health.
One of the sustainable farming practices is the optimal implementation of tillage practices. While soil tilling is known to have its disadvantages such as high soil moisture loss and damages in soil structure, optimal management of these practices could aid in maintaining soil nutrient levels and in turn, improve crop yield.
What are the key sustainability benefits?
Conservation tillage practices assist in improved water quality; reduced nutrient losses; increased water availability; improved air and soil quality. They also enhance the availability of soil organic matter to plants, thus improving crop yield.
How does this work?
Conservation tillage is any tillage practice that builds up crop residues on the soil surface to minimize the impact of water and wind erosion. The 30 percent residue benchmark for water erosion and the 1,000 pounds per acre benchmark for wind erosion are minimum requirements. Four types of tillage practices are followed - no-till, in-row subsoiling, strip-till, ridge-till.
No-till involves undisturbing the soil during the entire year; in-row subsoiling involves disturbing the soil surface and residues only in strips up to one-third of the row width. Strip-till involves disturbing the row or zone only where the next crop will be planted, while ridge till involves use of specialized planters and cultivators to form and retain permanent ridges on which cash crops are grown.
Optimal tillage for crop yield
Conservation tillage for increased crop production
Carbon Markets Stand to Reward ‘No-Till’ Farmers. But Most Are Still Tilling the Soil.
As the adoption of no-till practices has spread widely across parts of the U.S. over the past few decades, the approach has been touted as an important means of storing carbon in soil—and a key solution to solving the climate crisis.