Conservation Farming | Types | Principles | Benefits

Conservation Farming principles are generally applicable to all farming landscapes adapting local agricultural methods and aim high output. Soil practices, such as deep tillage, mechanical soil disruption, are minimized, and the use of artificial agronomical inputs are reduced, such as agro-chemicals, plant nutrients. However, agronomical inputs should be applied in optimal quantity or as per recommendations. So, it would not disturb agro-biological processes.

What is Farming?

Farming is a technique to grow plants and keep animals for the purpose of food and raw-material. It includes maintenance of land, raising of animals, seed sowing, crop harvesting, and more.

Types of Farming

  • Arable Farming: Cultivation of crops.
  • Pastoral Farming: Rearing of animals.
  • Mixed Farming: Cultivation and rearing of crops and animals.
  • Subsistence Farming: Cultivation of crops for farmer’s own use.
  • Commercial Farming: Cultivation of crops for purpose of market selling.
  • Intensive Farming: Cultivation of crops using high farming inputs.
  • Extensive Farming: Crop cultivation with low farming inputs.
  • Sedentary Farming: Crop cultivation at one place.
  • Nomadic Farming: Migrating farmers.

What Is Conservation Farming?

Definition: Conservative farming is a crop cultivation method that minimizes soil management practices, conserving soil characteristics and soil biodiversity.

It involves agricultural practices to conserve soil, environment, water, and biodiversity. It ultimately improves soil nutrient level and soil ability to grow seeds saving input cost and time.

Conservation agriculture promotes good agronomic practices, production technology, and improves soil structure crop production and overall land management for rain and irrigation. Combined with other well-known crop practices, selection of seed, integrated pest and weed management methods, nutrient and water suppling, it offers high output at low input cost.

Being the foundation of sustainable agriculture, conservation farming opens up enhanced integration opportunities between crop production and the commercial sector. It integrates crops and live-stock, as well as trees and pastures.

Types of Conservation Farming

  • Crop Rotation
  • Cover Cropping and Mulching
  • Cross-Slope Farming
  • Conservation Tillage
  • Buffer strips

Principles of Conservation Farming

In conservation agriculture, there are three main principles that contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of the environment:

  • Minimum soil disturbance.
  • Cover crop plantation, crop residue management/leaving in the field.
  • Practicing crop rotation.

What Are the Main Practices of Conservation?

Conservation farming promotes the use of traditional practices and defers the use of deep plowing, burning of crop residue, mono-culture, artificial fertilizers, and pesticides. This approach benefits farming in the following ways:

  • Leaving crop residue as a soil cover (at least 30%).
  • Minimum soil tillage.
  • Less soil disturbance.
  • Regular crop rotation.
  • Increased use of organic matter.
  • Use of integrated pest management techniques.
  • Decrease in fossil fuel usage.

Benefits of Conservation Farming

Conservation farming seems to be the ideal solution for global problems. It improves crop productivity, the environment, and biodiversity. Farmers are increasingly using this farming method for its effectiveness:

  • Improve soil structuring.
  • Increasing soil’s organic matter.
  • Enhance soil infiltration.
  • Improve soil nutrients.
  • Protection against soil erosion.
  • Decrease weed population.
  • Organic crop protection saves biodiversity.
  • Reduce farm finance.

1. Economic Benefits

The introduction of conservation agriculture has three important economic benefits:

  • Save time and reduce labor cost.
  • Reduce technical cost., fuel, machinery, etc.
  • High efficiency lower input, high output.

2. Agronomic Benefits

The introduction of conservation farming leads to an increase in soil productivity:

  • Increase soil organic matter.
  • Increase conservation of soil water.
  • Improve soil structure.
  • Improve crop root anchoring.

3. Environmental Benefits

Adaptation of conservation agriculture improves environment and biodiversity:

  • Reduce soil erosion.
  • Reduce infrastructure maintenance cost, roads, dams, power plants.
  • Improve water quality.
  • Filter atmosphere and improve air quality.
  • Increase soil bio-diversity.
  • Restore soil carbon content.

Why Do Farmers Adopt Conservation Farming?

Uncultivated soils due to their hardpan and random soil structure require modern agricultural practice, however ignoring traditional methods. These cultivation practices however affect the environment and soil biodiversity and reduce overall agricultural sustainability. Therefore, to save the environment and improve crop productivity, conservation agriculture is the only available approach.

For conservation farming, farmers only need basic equipments and materials which every small landholder and big farms can have at easy access. By using these low-cost equipments and skillful methods farmers can achieve high yield as well as can conserve soil, environment, and biodiversity.

Conservation agriculture following soil management principles can help achieving sustainable agriculture goals. Streamside vegetation can reduce food safety risks by preventing pathogen movement and the use of contaminated irrigation water.

Plantation of trees and extra vegetation alongside farms can help reduce the impact of high winds and airborne pollutants on fields. This practice can help reduce soil erosion and will in conserving soil biodiversity. This will support the production of beneficial insects, which can help in controlling crop pests and rodents.

Use of conservation agriculture practices can reduce labor cost and can increase the production of organic food. On-time availability of the labor force and their difficult management are two major factors for the decrease in crop yield. While harvesting, field labor also destroys the crop residue and soil structure, leading to soil nutrient loss.

Crop residue can play important role in sustainable agriculture, it can create a protective layer on the field’s soil to prevent it from erosion and rain effect, acid rain, or water runoff. Acid rain and water runoff can destroy soil structure and its fertility, which ultimately results in yield reduction.

The crop residue will also provide infiltration effects that will prevent water runoff and it will help restore groundwater, and reduce the evaporation rate. Cover vegetation will also provide habitat to microorganisms and beneficial insects and plants which will improve total yield.

Due to crop residue, carbon release in the atmosphere will reduce and the quantity of greenhouse gases in the environment will decrease. Carbon content will remain embedded in the soil, which ultimately increases the carbon sources in the soil making soil “net carbon sink”. Ultimately the high source of carbon will improve plant growth and yield.

Leading Countries in Conservation Farming

List of top ten leading countries of the world in conservation agriculture with their total cultivated area is given below:

Country Area (million ha)
USA. 26.5
Argentina. 25.55
Brazil. 25.50
Australia. 17
Canada. 13.48
Russia. 4.5
China. 3.1
Paraguay. 2.4
Kazakhstan. 1.6
Bolivia. 0.706