How to reduce spending and improve harvests

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Раздел: News

In the agriculture of Uzbekistan, as in any business, the question of reducing business expenditures and improving profits is an urgent one. Farmers, like any businessmen, want to earn more, and to find ways to lower their spending. But this is not always possible. Why?

1. Worldwide fuel costs are rising faster than the price of grain - in agriculture, fuel is one of the most important factors in production because a large amount of machinery is used to work the land. This machinery needs fuel, which is always scarce during the peak season. A high level of demand alongside the limited amount of fuel leads to price rises. But the price paid for agricultural products is not keeping pace. Given this, it can be noted that the availability and price of fuel is a limiting factor.

2. There is not always enough available water to meet the requirements of all farmers - the availability of water is affected by several factors:

a. Climatic - the frequency of droughts is gradually increasing, which is linked to global climate change;

b. Infrastructure - the efficiency of irrigation systems leaves much to be desired and currently almost 50% of water is lost due to infiltration or evaporation;

c. Management issues - water resources can only be used more effectively if the way in which they are managed is improved, as well as strengthening water users’ associations and other participants in water management.

3. The soil is becoming poorer - the fertility of soil is decreasing for the simple reason that growing the harvest removes more nutrient-rich substances from the soil than are put back. The average annual use of humus from the fertile layer amounts to one ton per hectare. In order to compensate for this loss, it is necessary to spread no less than 10 tons of dung (one ton of dung produces 50-90kg of humus in normal conditions). In order to improve the condition of the soil and to increase the amount of humus, it would be necessary to add much more dung per hectare than the required 10 tons. Unfortunately, our farmers usually spread no more than four to five tons per hectare.

Thus each farmer must consider:

– How to reduce the amount of fuel required per harvest;

– How to receive, preserve and properly use the required amount of water for an optimal harvest;

– How to improve the fertility of the soil for long-term and stable harvests.

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Farmers of Karakalpakstan are introducing with the sowing machine for direct planting

 

There is a solution, and it is one that is being actively and widely spread throughout the world: transitioning to the use of conservation farming techniques. Over the last 20 years, 10% of all arable land, or 125,000,000 hectares (as of 2012) have been farmed using these techniques, and this figure is growing year after year.

What is conservation farming? It consists of several fundamental elements:

1. Minimal disturbance of the soil - this includes zero tillage and sewing seeds without the use of a plough. The soil is not tilled, and there is no harrowing or flattening. The farmer simply sews his seeds straight onto the soil. All of this is done with the help of special planting machines which have been shown by time and by experience all over the world to be reliable and efficient.

Instead of four or five machine operations, only one machine operation is required. And the effect on fuel use is as follows:

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Use of gasoline per hectare of cotton plant cultivation (in litres)


It is possible to gauge the reduction in the amount of fuel required per country for the cultivation of fields by means of figures. But even the merely theoretical aspects are significant. 

Table No 1. Expenditure on cultivating cotton plants using traditional and conservation farming techniques in 2011 (from information from a Small Grants Programme - Global Environment Facility project on conservation farming in Karakalpakstan).

Name of the action

Gasoline use

Material use

Labour

Total expenditure with

traditional techniques,

total

Total expenditure with zero tilling,

total

 

litres

total

kg

total

total

total

total

Ploughing

30

48000

-

-

80000

128000

-

Harrowing levelling

15

24000

-

-

15000

39000

-

Seed planting

8

12800

30

36000

10000

58800

58800

Spreading of fertilizer

 

 

600

210000

-

210000

210000

Cultivation of middle rows

40

6400

-

-

75000

81400

-

Weeding

-

-

-

-

60000

60000

60000

Watering

-

-

-

-

60000

60000

60000

Total

 

91200

 

246000

300000

637200

388800

 

2. Preservation of the permanent soil cover - in other words, the soil should not be left uncovered or “naked” for a single moment. After the harvest, it is necessary to leave mulch on top of the soil: powdered chaff, covering the soil. This can be done with a simple piece of equipment that exists in every location, a KIR-1.5 If this piece of equipment is not available, all that is required is to leave a high stubble. It is possible to sew cover crops right into the mulch or stubble without removing it.

Covering the soil means the farmer achieves three important goals:

– preserving moisture in the soil which is vital for harvests;
– preserving a habitat for micro-organisms which are so crucial for the formation of humus;
– adding humus to the soil by means of the additional organic matter in the mulch and cover crop.

Here is a visual demonstration of how covering with mulch can preserve moisture:

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As regards the positive effect of mulch on the fertility of soils, it should be briefly remarked that one ton of chaff produces more humus (170kg) than one ton of dung (50-90kg).

 

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3.  Crop rotation is a crucial practice and is a fundamental premise of agronomy. Unfortunately, it is often neglected by our farmers. At the same time, there are a large number of crop rotation schemes with succeeding crops which are not only particularly profitable for farmers but also improve the soil.

The use of zero till methods enables a reduction in time spent working the land and means that time can be saved to cultivate succeeding crops.  
In this way, conservation farming techniques can help farmers to respond to the challenges of making a living from farming, reducing their expenditures, and investing in the fertility of their soil to ensure the long-term stability of agriculture. The country as a whole will benefit from these techniques as they will strengthen its food security and make its national agricultural sector more competitive. Furthermore, these techniques have the substantial benefit of stabilizing agricultural ecosystems and reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere that were given off by traditional farming techniques.

The Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility is contributing to the distribution of these technologies throughout the country. In the near future, four additional projects related to this technology in four different regions of the country (Khorezm, Syrkhandarya, Dzhizak and Fergana) will be launched. In Uzbekistan there are many organizations to help farmers get more information on these technologies. Any farmer who is interested can request information from the following contacts:

The GEF Small Grants Programme 
Address: UNDP, 41/3 Mirabadskaya St, 100015 Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Telephone: + 998 71 120 34 50; + (998 71) 120 61 67 (доб. 145); + 998 71 120 34 62
Cellular: + 998 93 381 00 82
Fax: + 998 71 120 34 85
e-mail: alexey.volkov@undp.org
Skype: volkalexis

Non-governmental non-profit organization KRASS – Khorezm Agro-Consultative Centre
Oybek Egamberdiev, candidate of agricultural sciences, scientific officer
Address: Project ZEF/UNESCO, Urgench State University, 14 Khamid Olimjan St, Khorezm, Uzbekistan
Telephone.: +998 62 224 34 13
Cellular: + 998 91 571 72 39
Fax: +998 62 224 33 47
e-mail: kkrass@ymail.com
oybek_72@yahoo.com

 

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Regional Office for Central Asia and the Caucasus in Tashkent
Dr Aziz Nurbekov, Specialist in conservation farming and resource conservation
Address: 6/106 Osiyo Street,100000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan
www.icarda.org/cac
Telephone.: + 998 71 237 21 30; + 998 71 237 21 69
Fax: + 998 71 120 71 25
Cellular: + 99890 977 97 00
e-mail: A.Nurbekov@cgiar.org 




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