“Soil tillage is the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning” – Wikipedia.
We do not know tillage to increase yields, but rather has negative impacts on food production particularly on our soils in the long term. For the following reasons, we must take a different and positive approach to agriculture and adopt conservation agriculture.
1. Soil Erosion
Tillage causes soil to break down into smaller particles. Wind easily blows away these particles. Again, heavy rains wash the particles as top soil to lower elevation. In these instances, nutrients are either blown away or washed away and easily leached away from the reach of roots. Then, you would require more fertilizer to obtain consistent yields.
2. Reduction of amount of soil organisms
Soil organisms are very vital to organic matter decomposition and their activities are vital to soil improvements. In very simple terms, tillage displaces and exposes soil organism to air and direct sunlight. Soils with low of soil organisms experience low rates of decomposition and therefore reduced amounts of soil nutrients.
3. Loss of nitrogen
Microorganisms, during the breakdown of organic matter release nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient for plant growth. Tillage releases the accumulated nitrogen in the soil whiles exposing the microorganisms. The farmer would then require more fertilizer to make up for the loss, increasing cost of production.
4. Soil compaction
After continuous tillage and exposure to several impacts, the soil forms a hard pan just below the depth of tillage. This hard pan prevents soil water drainage and root development. Moreover, soil compaction impedes root development and decreases the plant’s ability to take up nutrients and water. Without adequate and timely rains and accurate fertilizer application, it reduces yield. In wet seasons, it reduces soil aeration resulting in loss of nitrate-nitrogen to the atmosphere. Besides, soil compaction can induce nitrogen and potassium deficiency.
5. Additional cost to production
Soil tillage is an additional cost to farmers and is expensive. Consider cost of fuel and maintenance of machinery and if manual, the cost of labour. All these instance would require extra fertilizer in addition to other costs.
6. Environmental Damage
As stated before, heavy tillage exposes soils to both water and wind erosion. When soil with accumulated toxic substances from chemicals used on farm, wash or blow into streams, rivers and ponds they cause pollution. Then, fish and wildlife are also endangered when soil particles are washed into waters clouding them.
7. Not sustainable in the current climate change
Soil tillage is not a sustainable agricultural practice. Tillage makes the soil non-productive for food production after a period. In addition, we do not know of any proof that it increases yields of crops.
To ensure long term production of food, we must adopt conservation agriculture. This reduces cost of production, increases yield, improves soil and environment and is the only solution for the climate change.
Let’s get involved in discussions that helps improve lives with agriculture.