Tillage systems and soils in the semi-arid tropics☆ uri icon

abstract

  • Even though conservation tillage may be ideal for the semi-arid tropics (SAT) in view of results from studies and tillage practices in the U.S.A. and Australia, studies conducted in semi-arid regions of Africa appear to support the use of conventional tillage systems. Some of the reasons for this apparent discrepancy are because of the physical properties of the soils in semi-arid Africa, particularly the Sahelian zones where the soils are sandy, have high bulk densities and therefore low total porosities and form crusts upon wetting and drying. Consequently, no-till or reduced tillage systems that do not have the soil surface covered by residue in irder to prevent formation of crust as a result of raindrop impact, tend to lose water through runoff in a region where water economy is essential. Also, because these soils have inherently high bulk densities, conventional tillage systems appear to be suitable since they increase the macropores, reduce both bulk density and strength and thus ensure prolific root distribution and the resultant exploration of water and nutrients at greater soil depths. Notwithstanding, it seems that since most of the SAT soils are structurally unstable, further conventional tillage even though it has ephemeral advantages, may in the long term be exacerbating the problems of structural instability and their deleterious effect on water and soil conservation and therefore on crop production. We suggest that at this stage soil tillage research in the semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia should re-examine some of the concepts of conservation tillage in relation to soil physical properties and processes in order to obtain a tillage system that ensures high crop yields without destruction of the soil resource

publication date

  • 1991
  • 1991