is the goal of Conservation Agriculture?
Agriculture (CA) aims to conserve, improve and make more efficient
use of natural resources through integrated management of available
soil, water and biological resources combined with external
inputs. It contributes to environmental conservation as well
as to enhanced and sustained agricultural production. It can
also be referred to as resource- efficient agriculture.
are the characteristics of Conservation Agriculture?
Agriculture maintains a permanent or semi-permanent organic
soil cover. This can be a growing crop or a dead mulch. Its
function is to protect the soil physically from sun, rain and
wind and to feed soil biota. The soil micro-organisms and soil
fauna take over the tillage function and soil nutrient balancing.
Mechanical tillage disturbs this process. Therefore, zero or
minimum tillage and direct seeding are important elements of
CA. A varied crop rotation is also important to avoid disease
and pest problems.
Rather than incorporating biomass such as green manure crops,
cover crops or crop residues, in CA this is left on the soil
surface. The dead biomass serves as physical protection of the
soil surface and as substrate for the soil fauna. In this way
mineralisation is reduced and suitable soil levels of organic
matter are built up and maintained.
is Conservation Agriculture not?
Zero-tillage: zero tillage is a technical component used in Conservation Agriculture
but not everyone carrying out zero tillage is practicing Conservation
Agriculture. Conservation agriculture not only avoids tillage
by forcing the seed with heavy direct drills into the soil, by
maintaining a soil cover it also improves the structure of the
soil. This facilitates direct planting.
Conservation Agriculture uses biological tillage. Zero tillage
as stand alone technique can also be applied in conventional agriculture
under certain circumstances.
Conservation tillage: conservation tillage are practices
that leave crop residues on the surface which increases water
infiltration and reduces erosion. It is a practice used in conventional
agriculture to reduce the effects of tillage on soil erosion,
however, it still depends on tillage as the structure forming
element in the soil. Never the less, conservation tillage practices
such as zero tillage practices can be transition steps towards
Direct planting/seeding: this is only a technique
that refers to seeding/planting without preparing a proper seedbed.
The same equipment is used in Conservation Agriculture. However,
the term direct seeding can also be used for implements which
combine primary and secondary tillage and seeding in one machine/tractor
Organic farming: Conservation Agriculture is not
a synonym of organic farming, although it is based on natural
processes. CA does not prohibit the use of farm chemical inputs.
For example, herbicides are an important component in Conservation
Agriculture, particularly in the transition phase, until the new
balance of weed populations is managed. However, in view of the
importance of the soil life for the system, farm chemicals, including
fertilizer, are carefully applied and over the years, quantities
applied tend to decline. In some cases organic farming can be
practiced within the CA framework.
Conservation Agriculture compatible with Integrated Pest Management
Agriculture is not only compatible but actually works on IPM principles.
CA, like IPM, enhances biological processes. It expands the IPM
practices from crop and pest management to land husbandry. Without
the use of IPM practices the build up of soil biota for the biological
tillage would not be possible.
Referenced from Website: www.fao.org
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