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The Economic Benefits of Mulch Tillage

By: Laszlo Farkas   
Date Added : July 5, 2011 Views : 292

It is commonplace know that conservation and sustainability is the key to our future on this planet. After all, this subject has been talked about endlessly for the last few years as it has become increasingly evident that our planet is in dire need of change. However, it is safe to say that meaningful achievement of the much needed change depends on whether the benefits of conservation and sustainability outweigh the costs. Agricultural producers can contribute to conservation and sustainability by adopting tillage practices that maximize yield per hectare, preserve and improve soil quality, and use the least amount of fuel and chemicals in the process to minimize environmental effects. Mulch tillage offers the opportunity to achieve these while also increasing the bottom line for farmers.

In some areas, for example in much of Europe, conventional tillage practices that involve a multiple of operations are still the norm. The move to mulch tillage from standard tillage practices may be a hard step for those that cannot afford to make the wrong choice financially. The equipment needed for the adoption of mulch tillage is can be quite an investment, not only because these machines normally perform two or three tillage operations in a single pass, but also because these implements normally require tractor power from the high-end of the market. However, despite the larger initial investment, mulch tillage is well worth adopting for the long-run.

The key areas where this type of tillage method offers economic benefits is manpower, fuel consumption, cost of machinery, increased crop yields, decline in the need for fertilizers – all of these spell out less money used and more money earned. By using advanced implements as a mulch cultivator rather than plows, discs and seedbed makers, one can perform a multiple of tillage tasks in a single operation and create a seedbed directly from the stubble left after harvesting. This saves a great deal of fuel costs, requires only a single implement rather than three or more, and it also reduces manpower requirement in agricultural production. Moreover, the need for fertilizer is also reduced since mulch tilling incorporates residue into the topsoil where it decomposes over time and thereby increases the amount of organic nutrients in the root zone.

Not only does the use of mulch cultivators in tillage operations result in cost reductions, but it also increases revenues in the long run through higher yields. Less disturbance and turning of the soil ensures that the topsoil’s loss of nutrients and moisture is kept at a minimum that contribute to growing high quality crops and achieving high yields. Additionally, mulch cultivators create a layer of residue on top of the soil that serves mitigate the effects of adverse weather conditions such as heavy rainfall, drought and winds. In a given season it simply means that yield will not be as hard-hit by those unfavorable conditions, but in the long run it also proves very effective in the battle against soil erosion. As such it serves to keep the potential of the fields at a maximum.

The conventional wisdom of the well known proverb ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ is more than proven when one considers the benefits of mulch tillage. The adoption of such practice may require a large investment, but the benefits of reduced production costs and high yields in the long run make the transition from conventional cultivation an economically sound decision. With the current economic and environmental challenges, we will definitely see mulch tillage and mulch cultivators gain more ground in the future.

Pal Farkas, Ph.D. is the author of this article on Vegetable Oil Pressing. Find more information on Vegetable Oil Technologies here.

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