n Farmer’s Weekly - Managing no-till soil acidity and fertiliser requirements : crops

Volume 2016, Issue 16022
  • ISSN : 0041-848X



As its name describes, no-till requires minimum soil disturbance. In no-till commercial cropping enterprises, a specialised planter is used to cut and open shallow and narrow slots in the soil surface. The planter then drops seed and fertiliser into these slots before covering them with soil and plant matter. At the opposite end of the spectrumis conventional tillage, which typically uses a mouldboard plough to invert cropping soil. A disc is then used to break up the resulting clods into a fine tilth into which seeds are planted. Another important principle of no-till is ensuring that abundant - at least 30% after planting - and permanent plant residues cover the soil surface. A commercial maize crop produces large quantities of organic residue to cover the soil surface and to build soil organic matter. Soya bean, by contrast, while a useful crop due to its protein values, oil content and nitrogen-fixing abilities, produces very little residue that can benefit soil health. "Crop rotation is therefore an integral part of no-till," explains Guy Thibaud, soil scientist with the KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. "Using an economically viable and diversified crop rotation in a no-till cropping system mitigates possible weed, disease and pest problems. It also enhances microbial biodiversity in the soil. And utilising legumes in a crop rotation results in beneficial biological nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere into the soil. Crop rotation also spreads risk for the farming business."

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