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Are reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize? Free essay! Download now

Home > A Level > Geography > Are reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize?

Are reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize?

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Are reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize? essay previewAre reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize? essay previewAre reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize? essay preview

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Agriculture

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Are reduced tillage practices suitable for growing maize?

Maize has been grown under conventional agricultural practices for centuries. The basis of conventional tillage is annual plowing or tilling of the soil, but this is usually supplemented with a number of other practices, including the removal or burning of soil residues, land leveling, harrowing, fertilizer application and incorporation, inter-row cultivation, etc. All of these practices cause soil disturbance, compaction, and deterioration. Consequently, in many areas conventional agriculture has led to a decline in crop yields and profitability.
Plowing causes the rapid breakdown of soil organic matter. The soil collapses and compacts, reducing aeration and the number of soil organisms. The topsoil becomes susceptible to erosion and water runoff, so that after heavy rainfalls a great deal of soil is lost and little water is retained, leading to shallow and infertile soils which are no longer able to produce good yields. The cost of production also increases as the farmer needs to apply more fertilizer and use fuel to plow his lands.
Conservation agriculture (CA) is one possible answer to the deterioration caused by conventional farming practices. It encourages soil protection and care through reduced tillage practices and the maintenance of surface residues. This minimizes soil disturbance, encourages build-up of organic material, preserves the soil structure, and conserves soil water. Conservation agriculture is radically different from the conventional farming practices. Therefore, if farmers are to successfully implement the system, a change to their entire mindset is necessary.
Under conservation agriculture, the number of tillage operations is reduced or entirely eliminated (zero-tillage). Direct sowing is used. Cultivation of green manure (e.g. legumes) is encouraged to enrich the soil. Instead of hoeing to remove weeds, cover crops and residues help to smother emerging weeds. After harvesting, crop residues are left on the land. Crop rotation and intercropping are encouraged in order to break-up pest cycles and to avoid soil exhaustion from continuous monocropping. Conservation agriculture has led to maize crop yield increases and greater profitability as production costs are reduced.
When changing from a conventional tillage system to a reduced tillage system the following should be done:
It is recommended that farmers start CA in a small area to learn the system and gain confidence. The success of the system depends more on the farmer’s actions than on the inputs applied. It is therefore crucial for a farmer to experiment and find practices that suit the soil conditions of the area.
Gather information on the system by talking with other farmers who have adopted conservation agriculture, discussing the system with extension agents, and obtaining relevant literature.
Plan how to implement CA methods before the harvest of the current crop. Consider what to do with the residues, how the crop ...

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