Conservation Agriculture - Advantages and Limitations


Financial advantages for farmers:

  • Greater stability in yields, higher ratio of outputs to inputs
  • Reduced demand for labour
  • Lower costs of farm power through reduced tillage and weeding
  • Resilience to drought (improved water capture, moisture retention)
  • Release of labour at key times in year

Benefits to community and society:

  • More reliable and cleaner water supplies (lower treatment costs)
  • Less flooding through water retention and slower run-off
  • Less damage to infrastructure
  • Better food and water security

Environmental advantages:

  • Conserves soil and water hence better hydrology and river flows
  • Reduced incidence and intensity of desertification
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Lower levels of soil sediments in rivers, dams and irrigation systems
  • Greater carbon sequestration and retention in soils
  • Reduced emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Less water pollution from pesticides and applied nutrients
  • Less soil compaction through reduced use of heavy farm machinery
  • The “plough” has become the symbol of agriculture, many still think that agriculture is only possible through use of tillage approach.
  • Most small-holder farmers rely on using their crop residues for animal feed/ fuel, reducing the availability for other agricultural practices.
  • Communal grazing rights often apply in rural communities making it difficult to decide unilaterally to keep residues on the fields.
  • The principal function of tillage is weed control and so, when tillage stops, weed control becomes a major factor.
  • Small-holder farmers are often poorly linked to knowledge and information systems to offer them alternative approaches.
  • Farmers without secure access to land may be reticent to invest their time and effort in conserving and improving the land.
  • Small-scale equipment for seeding crops without tillage are not readily available in many regions.
  • The principles of conservation agriculture need to be adapted to local biophysical conditions and farmer circumstances. This takes time.
  • Often the policies and procedures of governments and international institutions tend to favour short-term approaches only.