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Zero tillage Zero worries

This topic provides information about Zero tillage Zero worries.

What is tillage?

Tillage is an agriculture land preparation through mechanical agitation which includes digging, stirring and overturning.

Zero tillage is the process where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present. Zero tillage not only reduce the cost of cultivation it also reduces the soil erosion, crop duration and irrigation requirement and weed effect which is better than tillage. Zero Tillage (ZT) also called No Tillage or Nil Tillage.

Zero tillage in India

No Till approach started from 1960s by farmers in India. The zero-tillage system is being followed in the Indo-Gangetic plains where rice-wheat cropping is present. Wheat will be planted after rice harvest without any operation. Hundreds of farmers are following the same system and getting more yields and profits by reducing the cost of cultivation. In South, the outhern districts like Guntur and some parts of West Godavari of Andhra Pradesh state  follow the ZT system  in rice-maize cropping system.

The green revolution paved the way for the rice-wheat production system in the north-western parts of India. But in due course of time, the yields of rice and wheat become stagnant due to inappropriate soil and water management system and late planting of wheat, as in the hot season rice is being grown and in the winter wheat follows the rice. In 1990’s the zero tillage came to mitigate the problem, by planting the wheat by drilling without any land preparation and tillage.

The success of zero tillage depends on the machinery to drill seed in the uncultivated land. In late 1980’s, CIMMYT introduced a prototype for drilling the seed. In India, the first localized seed drill was manufactured by GB Pant University with a motor to reduce the cost and make it available and affordable. The drills are tractor drawn and used in rice-wheat cropping system.

Zero tillage proves better for direct-seeded rice, maize, soybean, cotton, pigeonpea, mungbean, clusterbean, pearlmillet during kharif season and wheat, barley, chickpea, mustard and lentil during rabi season. Wheat sowing after rice can be advanced by 10-12 days by adopting this technique compared to conventionally tilled wheat, and wheat yield reduction caused by late sowing can be avoided. ZT provides opportunity to escape wheat crop from terminal heat stress. Zero tillage reduces cost of cultivation by nearly Rs 2,500-3,000/ha through reduction in cost of land preparation, and reduces diesel consumption by 50-60 litres per hectare. Zero tillage reduces water requirement of crop and the loss of organic carbon by oxidation. Zero tillage reduces Phalaris minor problem in wheat. The carbon status of soil is significantly enhanced in surface soil (0-5 cm), particularly under crop residue retention with zero tillage (Ref: Policy paper 31 - Doubling Strategy for Doubling Income of Farmers in India).

Advantages of zero tillage

  1. Reduction in the crop duration and thereby early cropping can be obtained to get higher yields.
  2. Reduction in the cost of inputs for land preparation and therefore a saving of around 80%.
  3. Residual moisture can be effectively utilized and number of irrigations can be reduced.
  4. Dry matter and organic matter get added to the soil.
  5. Environmentally safe - Greenhouse effect will get reduced due to carbon sequestration.
  6. No tillage reduces the compaction of the soil and reduces the water loss by runoff and prevent soil erosion.
  7. As the soil is intact and no disturbance is done, No Till lands have more useful flora and fauna.


The natural resources are precious and therefore demand an effective and sustainable use. Zero tillage is a potential technology in this scenario. Although the drawback of use of non-selective herbicide is more, it still causes less effect than the conventional method of farming. In zero tillage, more returns can be achieved and timely crop can be grown with higher yields.


  1. Madhu Kiran Tumma, PBRD Asia-Pacific Millet India, Pioneer Hibrid Pvt Ltd., Hyderabad 500082
  2. K S V Poorna Chandrika, ICAR-Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, Telangana 500030

Related resources

  1. ToT Manual for Zero-Tillage Wheat
  2. Zero tillage in the rice-wheat systems of the Indo-Gangetic Plains - A review of impacts and sustainability implications - IFPRI Discussion paper
  3. Zero Tillage Pea Enhanced Income of Farmers in Meghalaya
  4. Manual for Using Zero-Till Seed-cum-Fertilizer Drill and Zero-Till Drill-cum-Bed Planter
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