Farmers embraces reduced tillage for minimal soil disturbance

Training on the use of a step plow called ”Berken Maresha”
Training on the use of a step plow called ”Berken Maresha”

In conventional agriculture, soil tillage is considered an important practice to create favorable soil structure to increase water infiltration and retention, while too much soil tillage could cause soil compaction and increases erosion and thus degrades soil quality. Frequent tillage also requires time, labor and equipment.

According to the conventional wisdom on soil tillage in ox-plow agriculture, which first took root in Ethiopia's northern highlands around 100 B.C., the soil is worked to a fine tilth by repetitive cross-plowing, as many as 12 passes for some crops depending on location. Farmers prefer repetitive and cross-plowing because the traditional ard plow, Maresha (which creates a v-shaped furrow), leaves a swath of land unplowed between the adjacent passes, resulting in incomplete plowing. Nonetheless, tillage intensity varies according to agroecology and crop type. 

 As part of the effort to promote regenerative agriculture, SAA-Ethiopia trains extension agents and farmers to practice zero or reduced tillage supported by a step plow known as "Berken Maresha," which is a conservation tillage equipment for stepped tillage by breaking the hard pan along a specific line, accompanied by shallow tillage on both sides of the ripped line. It performs ripping and shallow cultivation in one pass, resulting in reducing tillage, increasing water infiltration, and controlling weeds.

During a recent Monitoring mission in Kokit kebele of Meket District in Amhara region, the SAA team learned that farmers have no strong objections to zero or reduced tillage. The host farmers reported that after SAA taught them reduced tillage, they reduced their tillage frequency to once or twice for wheat and zero or once for faba bean. They said, "Now that we learned that reduced tillage is good for our crop, we gladly accept it."

SAA's promotion of reduced soil mechanical disturbance revealed farmers’ implicit desire to adopt reduced tillage in their farms. SAA will continue to promote reduced tillage and associated sustainable farming practices.

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