The world experience on adoption of conservation agriculture (CA) - one of the most important components of sustainable agriculture - suggests that the countries effectively using no-till drill machinery are implementing CA practices the fastest. These practices are based on the necessity that soil is permanently covered and crops are sown through this cover with minimal soil disturbance. Specialized no-till machinery offers many different designs from cutting discs, rotary turbo-system fitted with chisel opener tines that penetrate the mulch and open the soil for seed and fertilizer to other innovative systems such as strip till equipment that incorporate the residues and till the soil in a very narrow strip for placement of seed and fertilizers1.
Surface retention of crop residues (mulch) is a crucial element in CA. When applied correctly, surface mulch can buffer soil temperature changes (in winters and summers), protect the soil against erosion, promote the accumulation of organic carbon, facilitate nutrient recycling, reduce weed infestation, improve the water storage capacity of the soil, reduce evapotranspiration and hence slow down soil salinization, providing niches for beneficial microbes, soil fauna and flora to flourish2.
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), standing at the forefront of conservation agriculture movement and promoting its best practices in Central Asia and the Caucasus, recently conducted a training course on no-till technology and crop diversification in cooperation with Karakalpak Research Institute of Farming, held on 14-15 March, 2016.
The training focused on issues and concepts around no-till technology, no-till equipment, crop diversification and rotation schemes, including field practices on no-till machinery, seed rate calibration, and distance between rows. Organized at the Karauzyak district Governorate, Karakalpakstan Republic, Uzbekistan, 38 participants (33 men and 5 women) - specialists, farmers and students - represented three districts in Karakalpakstan (Chimbay, Amudarya and Karauzyak), Karakalpak Research Institute of Farming, as well as Nukus Branch of Tashkent State Agrarian University. Also were present the District Governor and Professor Yormamat Khaliyorov, Member of Parliament of Uzbekistan.
During the theoretical and practical sessions a newly developed no-till drill equipment was presented and analyzed for compliance with sowing standards, including some field tests on seed sowing and depths. The new no-till drill is a direct result of the "CGIAR Collaborative Research & Capacity Building Program for the Development of Sustainable and Resilient Agricultural Production Systems in Central Asia under the Conditions of Changing Climate” project, funded by the Government of Russia.
A signal variant of this no-till planter developed in a workshop located in Amudarya district of Karakalpakstan represents a customized version of existing conventional cereal planter modified into a no-till drill. Its performance was compared to the model recently imported from Jordan through Knowledge Management project CACLIM Phase II. The locally modified equipment, which perfectly handles residues and follows the contour for each row independently, demonstrated certain advantages over the imported prototype. Given that purchasing ready no-till drills from abroad may be costly, with not all farmers able to afford such an expensive equipment, it is not only an effective economic solution, but also a great prospect to speed up adoption of conservation agriculture practices in the region.
The participants showed great interest in the topics and high commitment in order to prepare the legislation in Uzbekistan for adoption of no-till technology in the country. To support their knowledge base, they were also distributed with a number of ICARDA publications on the requirements of conservation agriculture.
1Gupta, R., K. Kienzler, C. Martius, A. Mirzabaev, T. Oweis, E. de Pauw, M. Qadir, K. Shideed, R. Sommer, R. Thomas, K. Sayre, C. Carli, A. Saparov, M. Bekenov, S. Sanginov, M. Nepesov, and R. Ikramov 2009. Research Prospectus: A Vision for Sustainable Land Management Research in Central Asia. ICARDA Central Asia and Caucasus Program. Sustainable Agriculture in Central Asia and the Caucasus Series No.1. CGIAR-PFU, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 84 pp.