The zero tillage is the traditional land preparation technique. As the name implies it involves the total avoidance of the manipulation of the soil. The soil structure and its components are preserved and conserved. This has a huge economic advantage over other land preparation methods.
Analysis of the land preparation methods in relation to the soil.
The soil is an entity that comprises of other biological components. The soil consists of micro and macro-organisms. Dwelling and reproducing within it. The activities of these organisms help to maintain and sustain the soil. Good examples of their activities are the reproduction and decomposition of these soil organisms which helps to increase the soil fertility.
Also, movement of these organisms helps the soil improve its physical properties such as aeration, water percolation and absorbing ability. Of course, you would agree that these properties play an important role in the growth and development of any crop.
Effects of these land preparation methods on the soil
Let’s examine how these methods affect the soil and its component, and how the soil responds to the need of your crops.
The conventional and minimum land preparation method involves two basic operations, namely:
These operations help to break the soil into fine particles such that it becomes neutral and free from pests. These methods will totally disrupt the soil and its component. The preserved harmony of the soil community is destroyed hence the soil becomes more or less futile and inactive.
Land prepared under these methods will need some period to aggregate itself, the soil organisms also need some time to organize their colony and resume activities to ensure the land is productive again.
As a farmer adopting any of these methods, it is highly recommended you add organic fertilizer, like compost manure; to the soil when any of these land preparation methods are adopted.
But why organic fertilizer?
This is because organic fertilizer is embodied with important microorganisms and nutrients; the microorganisms act as a primer when added to the soil to quickly initiate the activities of soil organisms, therefore revamping the soil quality earlier than it is supposed to be.
In these methods, the emergence of weeds and pests are kept at bay for some reasonable period. The breeding ground of the pests is destroyed and any surviving pest will be exposed to harsh weather condition, hence, eliminating it completely.
Weeds are completely uprooted and their seeds are exposed to harsh weather condition like that of the pests. Adopting any of these methods will keep your farm free from weeds for a reasonable period before weeds finally emerge.
If a short gestation period crop like maize or soybean or cowpea, is planted, weeding may not be necessary as these crops would have fully emerged before the emergence of weeds, hence, they can successfully withstand any form of competition with the weeds.
In case of a long gestation period crop, weeding is not necessary because the canopy formed by these crops will submerge the weeds and keep them out of the competition. This is what you see in a cassava farm or cashew farm that is adequately spaced. You will observe that beneath the crop is clean and free from weed.
The zero tillage method is an environmental-friendly method as the soil structure and components are retained. Planting on such soil will quickly aid germination and in most cases increase the yield of the crop. This is because the soil does not need to struggle for nutrients. The topsoil of land that is unaltered before planting is highly rich in nutrients and these nutrients are readily available at a sufficient level, in most cases, for the crops to utilize.
However, there is a tendency of disease pathogens and pests as their pathogens are also part of the soil components. Also, weeds may tend to be a threat because the weed seeds are still buried beneath the soil, patiently waiting for a favorable condition for them to emerge.
The choice to adopt any of the aforementioned land preparation methods depends on the available cost. The conventional tillage is the most expensive, the minimum tillage is relatively expensive but the zero tillage is the cheapest or least expensive. Land cultivated on a zero-tillage system has the propensity to produce more than the other two methods provided pest and diseases are not of economic importance.
In the case of conventional and minimum tillage methods, your input, in terms of fertilizers or any other planting aids, majorly determines the yield. This is because you are planting on an inactive or a debilitated soil as a result of the land preparation method you adopted.
Lastly, irrespective of the crop you intend to plant, it is very imperative you prepare your soil using proper land preparation tools to suit your demand. You are left to select from any of the land preparation methods as the comparative advantages and descriptions have been discussed extensively.