Tillage is an agricultural preparation of the soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as gidding, stirring and overturning. The purpose of tillage is to mix organic matter into the soil, to help control weeds, break up crusted soil or loosen up small area for planting. But nowadays, there are conflict on the effects of tillage in the soil. Is tillage really good for the soil?
There are various derivatives of tillage based on the 3 basic types of tillage depending on the degree of soil disturbance and residue.
Conventional tillage practice is where farmers loosen the soil by turning it over. They achieve this either manually with hoes or mechanically with a plough or disc. This exposes the soil to erosion by wind or rain. In areas where they use only simple tools like hoes, land preparation is done by the “slash and burn” method before ploughing.
Generally, this method tries to reduce the disruption of the topsoil to prevent erosion and to enrich the soil. You can achieve this by allowing on the field previous season’s crops residues, before and after planting the next crop.
No-Till is the kind of conservation tillage, where there is no (or very little) disruption of the topsoil. In this case, even mechanical planters are designed and operated to minimally or not to disrupt the soil. The farmer maintains soil cover to prevent erosion, loss of soil moisture.
For newly mechanized farmers, tillage was a way to solve problems. It is used for seedbed preparation, it loosens and aerates the too layer of soil which facilitates planting the crop, weed suppression, turning over crops and forages, burying heavy crop residue, leveling the soil and incorporating manure, fertilizer and other organic matter into the root zone.
However, modern agrucultural science has greatly reduced the used of tillage. It has negative impacts to the soil like, soil loses a lot of nutrients like nitrogen and its ability to store water. Tilling the soil also results to dislogding the cohesiveness of the soil particles thereby inducing erosion. It decreases the water infiltration rate of the soil. Splashed particles clog soil pores, effectively sealing off the soil’s surface, resulting in poor water infiltartion . It also reduces organic matter of the soil, microbes, earthworms, ants, etc, and destroys soil aggregates.
Tillage has various effects to the soil, positive and negative. But the use of tillage is depend upon on how you see it’s effect to the soil.