Zero-till planting is a method of crop planting without conventional field cultivation practices. In wheat it is employed for planting wheat in standing stubbles of previous rice crop. It thus avoids preparatory tillage and so reduces the cost of crop production. By eliminating field preparatory tillage it facilitates early wheat planting. Timely wheat planting is a critical factor in wheat yield maximization. Unfortunately, most of the wheat in Punjab is late planted and the yields are, therefore, low. Cotton, rice and sugarcane all delay
Zero-till planting is a method of crop planting without conventional field cultivation practices. In wheat it is employed for planting wheat in standing stubbles of previous rice crop. It thus avoids preparatory tillage and so reduces the cost of crop production. By eliminating field preparatory tillage it facilitates early wheat planting. Timely wheat planting is a critical factor in wheat yield maximization. Unfortunately, most of the wheat in Punjab is late planted and the yields are, therefore, low. Cotton, rice and sugarcane all delay wheat planting and with rising temperatures at maturity the crop growth period is being curtailed which further affect wheat productivity. So practices which enable timely wheat planting would be critical in future. Zero-til planting entails several other advantages. Rice crop residues incorporated/left in the field provide mulch, retain moisture and keep crop temperatures low, a way to fight changing climate. Residues help buildup of soil organic matter, improve soil fertility and make soil porous for water penetration/retention. Crop residues left in the field promote biodiversity – soil flora and fauna – which are necessary for reviving soil health and maintaining balance so important in successful crop production. Using previous crop remnant soil moisture the zero-til planting has water saving aspect also. Also a zero-til planted field has less weed infestation due to undisturbed weed seed bank deeper in the soil layers. Finally, by reducing fossil fuel use it plays a role in arresting atmospheric pollution and its consequent climate change effects. Carbon dioxide from fuels is the main cause of rising temperatures being experienced lately.
Zero-til planting is done with an especially designed planter that opens up a slit in the unworked soil and places the seed in the slit. The seed remains uncovered but is safe from scavenger birds due to its inaccessibility in the slit. A well moist soil condition ensures better germination. A combine harvested rice field with 15-25 cm stubbles is ideal. Zero-til planting without crop residues doesn’t give satisfactory results due to absence of benefits enumerated up. A field with straw piles, however, obstructs planter working. Straw piles lifts the planter and seed is dropped on the surface and remains ungerminated due to dry surface conditions. The fields, as a result, give patchy look and may not yield well due to low population. Most of the zero-til planters come with fertilizer attachments which deliver the fertilizer in the seed row. Ideally fertilizers should be placed 5-7cm to a side and 5-7cm below the seed row. A planter which delivers the fertilizer in the seed row, therefore, is not the best arrangement. It can be used to apply phosphatic fertilizers during planting. Nitrogenous fertilizers especially urea shouldn’t be applied through such drills as they affect germination when placed in close proximity with seed. Zero-til planters come with adjustable seed rate, fertilizer and row spacing arrangements. So a farmer should see that the planter is adjusted to his needs. Before planting season starts farmers should check their planters for breakage, dirt accumulation or any blockage in delivery system and clear them and oil/ grease the moving parts and makeup for the breakages.
A zero-til planting can averagely save farmers Rs. 4000.00 incurred on land preparation for wheat planting. Besides, there would an average benefit of Rs. 2500.00 in terms of yield gains due to early planting. So zero-til planting besides healthy effects on soil and crop environment entails direct monetary benefits for farmers.
Planting time: The best planting for wheat is the end of October or first fortnight of November. After mid November the yield starts declining and later the crop is planted higher is the yield loss. The rate of yield decline is indicated below:
Rate of yield reduction in delayed planted wheat crop
Planting (weeks) after 10th Nov.
% yield reduction
Timely planting not only maximizes yield it minimizes the frost, insect and disease damages also. So timely planting is the best bargain for farmer on his investment.
Seed rate: 40-50 kg/acre
Seed quality and CSISA role in seed production: Seed is still the magic factor in successful crop production and makes black and white differences. Seed should be vigorous, healthy and free of diseases and debris. Its germination should be above 95 per cent. Farmers can easily produce quality seed themselves and CSISA, Pakistancan provide the needed technical know-how to interested persons and encourages local seed leaders for quick diffusion of quality seed. Seed situation in deep rural areas is particularly precarious and can be addressed through local seed leaders. Lately many farmers have reported occurrence of Karnal bunt. Once in the soil it can survive year after year and become an endemic problem. Farmers and seed industry should particularly be watchful of this disease.
Fertilizers: Fertilizer use should be guided by inherent soil fertility, a broad based departmental recommendation includes 2bags each of DAP and urea. Rich soils may require less fertilizers. In selected areas potash and micronutrients have proved beneficial. In canal irrigated areas sufficient potash is available in irrigation water. Previous crop residues can immobilize nitrogen so a little extra nitrogen application (10-15 kg/acre) is advisable.
Weed control: Weeds can rob farmers upto 40 percent of their yield and need to be checked. Wild oats, Phalaris, Chenopodium (Bathu), Convolvulus (Laili) are main weeds. Most of the weeds are easily controllable with available herbicides. Phalaris population is low in zero-til planted fields. Farmers should note that proper control requires right herbicide used at right time and in right manner otherwise weed control measures would remain ineffective. If rice season weeds persist, it is adviseable to control them with preseeding herbicide.
Irrigation: Undisturbed soil inhibits deep water percolation so zero-til planting can save 15-20 percent water. Crop should be sown in well moist soil, a dryer soil reduces germination. 4-5 irrigations are sufficient for wheat crop; first irrigation should be applied 15-20 days after planting. Other irrigations should be preferably timed with critical crop stages: boot and early milk stages.