How Tadkal ryots are saving money and soil with zero tillage

A farmer in Tadkal, Veeresham, mentions he has been cultivating paddy for the last four years, but this year he planted maize as a second crop using the zero tillage technique.
Farmers sow maize seeds using the zero tillage farming technique in Tadkal village
Farmers sow maize seeds using the zero tillage farming technique in Tadkal village

SANGAREDDY: In the fight against climate change, soil erosion and lack of adequate agricultural workers, a group of about 15 farmers in Tadkal village, which borders Karnataka, seem to be holding their own.  A resource-conserving technique — known as zero tillage farming — has reduced the financial and physical burden, apart from doing wonders for the soil quality, according to G Santosh, an agricultural extension officer in Tadkal, which falls under the Narayankhed Assembly constituency. Under this technique, a crop is sown directly into the soil left untilled since the harvest of the previous crop.

It was Santosh who encouraged local farmers to take up zero tillage farming and grow maize. Many farmers were already reaping the benefits of intercropping, a technique that was introduced to the tillers in the last few years. They were told that no ploughing was required which would help reduce the crop investment. Buoyed by the success of the previous technique, the farmers took to zero tillage farming like a moth to flame.

A farmer in Tadkal, Veeresham, mentions he has been cultivating paddy for the last four years, but this year he planted maize as a second crop using the zero tillage technique. “It has helped me save around Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000, the money that would have been traditionally spent on ploughing and weeding,” he adds.

Resilient against strong winds

Speaking to TNIE, Santhosh said farmers predominantly cultivate paddy during the Kharif season, while in the Rabi season, they opt for crops like maize, sorghum or sunflower. He added that by planting maize and sunflower seeds next to the paddy stubble from the previous harvest, the saplings emerged within three to four days and the underside was strong, helping it be resilient against the strong winter winds prevalent in Narayankhed.

The official pointed out that traditional maize and sunflower crops often break due to strong winds in the region, but the ones cultivated using the zero tillage technique remained unaffected, ensuring a higher yield and greater earnings for the farmer. While many ryots were hesitant to adopt the new technique at first, the strength of the saplings and the reports of rising soil fertility were enough to dissolve their steely resolve.

Bhupal Reddy, a farmer from Tadkal, adopted the zero tillage technique on his four-and-a-half acres of land. In the last Kharif season, he cultivated maize seeds immediately after the harvest of paddy. He highlighted that the saplings grew in an extremely short period and that he saved Rs 4,000 per acre on weeding costs. In total, the technique helps him save around Rs 10,000 annually.

In the conventional method, farmers used to plough both during the Kharif and Rabi seasons, ultimately flattening the entire land. However, since incorporating the zero tillage technique into his farming practices over the last two years, Bhupal Reddy now ploughs his land only once a year.

30% soil affected

Experts say that despite India being an agricultural economy, little attention is being paid to the issue of soil degradation, which is primarily caused by soil erosion. Reports say that around 30% of soil in the country has been degraded, which, experts believe, could have catastrophic repercussions soon. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that climate change continues to wreak havoc on crop yield across the world and farmers in the state constantly complain of not having enough labourers to prepare the land for sowing.

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