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Tripple benefits of zero tillage

LAHORE-The Extension Department of the Punjab government is making a shortsighted and potentially dangerous attempt to undermine the growing popularity of zero tillage. Their motivation is ill-informed and stems out from the fact that zero tilalge has been populated in Punjab by the on-farm Water Management Department. It is a well known fact that both these are bitter rivals. However, this alone does not explain why the Extension Department is desperately trying to check the growing popularity of zero tillage or no till (as it is called in the US).

Zero tillage-whereby, crops in rotation are sown without the conventional tillage associated with land preparation is a radical departure from the previously held ideas that the more you plough the better it is. Farmers in the USA first developed this technology in the 60's and 70's primarily as a method of meeting the sowing deadlines of various crops. As time passed, the zero or no till methodology was refiend to a point where it had completely surpassed conventional tillage in terms of higher yields coupled with lower costs.

Imagine the chargin of the Extension Department when the Water Management Department not only succeeded in proving that the zero tillage not only saves water in the rice--wheat cropping system in Punjab--but also increased the yield and reduces the cost. It is a tripple benefit system for the farmers. Our farmers may be illiterate and simple, but they are not fools, who can be duped again and again.

Basmati rice and wheat are being grown on my farms in Sheikhupura for the last 25 years through this cropping pattern. The average yield of wheat prior to 1999 had always been in the region of 25.32 maunds per acre, applying all inputs, including fertilizers, pesticides-weedicides etc. The primary reason for the low yield was late sowing which could not be helped since. Basmati is late naturing rice. After harvesting it, the field is ploughed 4 to 5 times to get rid of the rice strubble and is made ready for sowing wheat, which is by mid-December but it is sowed on my farms till end December and sometimes early January.

In Sheikhupura rapid switchover to zero till is being witnessed and this is not confined only to Punjab. In fact a progressive farmer from Jaccobabad Sindh, after hearing, too, has purchased a zero till drill from Daska and took it to his land. Recently, the district government of Lahore has purchased zero till drills for the use of local
Lahore farmers.

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