Economics Aspects of
Principal Scientist and Head,
Division of Socio Economics, Extension & Training, ICAR-RCER, Patna
Presentation in “Workshop on Resource Conservation Technologies”
ICAR-RCER, Patna from 17-19 September 2009.
What is Conservation Agriculture?
o Conservation agriculture or Resource Conservation Technology
(RCT) is an approach for the design and management of
sustainable and resource-conserving agricultural systems.
o It seeks to conserve, improve and make more efficient use of
natural resources through integrated management of soil,
water, crops and other biological resources in combination with
selected external inputs.
o Such a technological package represents a resource saving
and efficient agriculture that contributes to environmental
conservation and at the same time enhances production on
o Elements of Conservation Agriculture, inter-alia, include
improved on-farm water management, minimum tillage, organic
soil cover, direct seeding through the crop residue and
appropriate crop rotations to avoid disease and pest problems.
Economic Rationale For Promoting
o From the farmer's perspective, the benefits of CA can be either
on-site (private) or off-site (reduced sediment pollution, carbon
o In the absence of sustainable soil management practices, soil
degradation can lead to crop and livestock losses, with regional
or global consequences (refugees, famine, etc.).
o Where the rest of the world provides assistance, these
resources are wasted if the earlier adoption of CA or other
practices could have avoided the situation.
o In addition, lands under CA support terrestrial wildlife and soil
micro fauna that are important components in global
o Thus, good soil conservation and management can have
benefits that the individual farmer does not anticipate, but which
do have real implications for the global environment.
RCT refers to the system of raising crops without tilling the soil
while retaining crop residues on the soil surface. The key
elements which characterize RCT include:
o Minimum soil disturbance by adopting no-tillage and minimum
traffic for agricultural operations,
o Leave and manage the crop residues on the soil surface, and
o Adopt spatial and temporal crop sequencing/crop rotations to
derive maximum benefits from inputs and minimize adverse
o Combining the above elements with improved land-shaping (e.g.
through laser aided leveling, planting crops on beds, etc.) further
enhances the opportunities for improved resource management.
o In conventional systems, while soil tillage is a necessary
requirement to produce a crop, tillage does not form a part of this
strategy in RCT.
o Intensive tillage in conventional systems causes gradual decline in
soil organic matter content through accelerated oxidation, resulting
in reduced capacity of the soil to regulate water and nutrient
supplies to plants.
Benefits of RCT
o Direct benefits to farmers include reduced cost of cultivation
through savings in labour, time and farm power, and improved
use efficiency resulting in reduced use of inputs.
o RCT practices reduce resource degradation.
o Gradual decomposition of surface residues improves soil
organic matter status, biological activity and diversity and
contributes to overall improvement in soil quality.
o RCT is a way to reverse the processes of degradation inherent
in conventional agricultural practices involving intensive
cultivation, burning and/or removal of crop residues, etc.
o RCT leads to sustainable improvements in efficient use of water
and nutrients by improving nutrient balance and
availability, infiltration and retention by the soil, reducing water
loss due to evaporation and improving the quality and
availability of ground and surface water.
RCT in India
o The primary focus of promoting RCT practices has been the
development and adoption of zero tillage cum fertilizer drill for
sowing wheat crop in rice–wheat system.
o Other interventions include raised-bed planting system, laser-aided
land-leveling equipment, residue management alternatives,
alternatives to rice–wheat cropping system in relation to RCT
o The adoption and spread of zero tillage is attributed to benefits like
reduction in cost production, reduced incidence of weeds and
therefore savings on account of weedicide costs, savings in water
and nutrients and environmental benefits.
o Adopting RCT helps in achieving greater crop diversification.
o Crop sequences/rotations can further enhance natural ecological
processes which contribute to system resilience and reduced
vulnerability to yield, thus reducing disease and pest problems.
o Zero-tillage when combined with appropriate surface-managed
crop residues results in structural improvement of soil and
increased recycling and availability of plant nutrients, which also
improves soil moisture regime, biological activity and provides a
favourable environment for crop growth.
Resource Conservation Technologies (RCT)
Laser Land Leveling: It is a resource conservation
technology, where laser beam guided automatic
scrapers are used for more precision of land leveling
work. Impact studies reveal significant benefits of
precision land leveling as given below:
Major Benefits of Laser Land Leveling
Particulars Extent (%)
Curtailment in irrigation application losses 25
Reduction in labour requirements 35
Enhancement in the irrigated area 2
Increase in the crop yields 20
Benefits of Precision Land Leveling using
Laser Equipped Drag Bucket
o Improving crop establishment
o Improving uniformity of crop maturity
o Approximately 3 % (in canal irrigated area) to 6 % (in
tubewell irrigated area) increase in cultivable area
o Has potential to increase water application efficiency by
over 50 %
o Increase in water productivity of crops
o Increase in yield of crops (15 to 25 %)
o Approximately 25-30% saving in irrigation water
o Increase in nutrient use efficiency (15- 25 %)
o Reduces weed problems and improves weed control
(Jat et al, 2004)
o One of main reasons for low yields of wheat in rice-wheat
cropping system is delayed planting of wheat due to late
maturing of preceding rice crop sown in the region besides high
cost of land preparations and other inputs.
o After rice harvest, sufficient residual moisture is generally
available to establish new crop.
o Conventional tillage accelerates soil moisture evaporation and
requires extra irrigation water to bring the field back to
semblance of a seedbed.
o This causes major delays in wheat sowing, which ultimately
affects final crop yields. Decrease in wheat yield @ one percent
per day after mid November is well documented.
o Minimum/zero tillage offers conservation of water and energy
resources and also results in better crop yields.
o This technology had been in use since long in many parts of the
world and then it was introduced in India. Initial trials were
confined to progressive and large farmers.
o Although yields results were impressive but uptake of the
technology remained limited. This is partly because of high cost
of zero tillage seed drills with limited availability.
Potential Benefits to the Application of
Residue-Based Zero Tillage Systems
o Reduced Cost of erosion
o Reduction in the cost of fertilizers
o Elimination of the costs of replanting
o Savings in herbicides:
o Savings in fuel
o Reduced Costs of physical conservation works:
o Increase in production
o Analysis of the cost-benefit ratio of soil conservation:
Investments in RCT could provide a return of 20 percent
per year with the widespread adoption of adequate
practices (particularly zero tillage and crop rotations)
over a time period of 20 years.
o Increase in organic matter content in upper layers of soil,
increased biodiversity, number and activity (of earthworms,
fungi, bacteria, etc.) in the soil. Better soil structure; soil loss
reduced by over 80 percent, runoff by 50 percent or more;
o Greater availability of P, K, Ca, Mg in the root zone; less
fertilizer needed for same result.
o Better germination and development of plants, better root
development and to much greater depth; better crop stand in
rainless periods due to increased water holding capacity.
o Yields often higher, typically + 20 percent for maize/wheat, +
37 percent for beans, with less year-to-year yield variation.
o Less investment and reduced use of machinery and animals
in crop production; reduced costs for labour, fuel and
machinery-hours perceptible within 2 years.
o Operational net margins per ha rose by between + 58
percent and + 164 percent, because of combination of lower
cost of production and increase in yields.
o Greater flexibility in farm operations especially over optimum
dates for planting.
Projected area coverage, savings in fuel and labor,
and additional gains in productivity of wheat
2001 60,000 80 65,790 1,440,000 3,500,000
2002 180,000 240 197,370 4,320,000 10,500,000
2003 540,000 720 592,110 12,960,000 31,500,000
2004 1,250,000 1,667 1,370,625 30,000,000 72,916,667
Total 2,030,000 2,707 2,225,895 48,720,000 118,416,667
Salient features of zero tillage and puddled
broadcasted sowing in rice under heavy soils
of Patna ( 2003)
Resource Benefits Rs./ha over
Saving in nursery raising 1140 1140
Saving in land preparation puddling, bund
making and nursery uprooting
Saving in rice planting/sowing 1200 1800
Saving in weeding (-) 3000 00
Increase income due to additional yield 2000(4q/ha) 1000 (2q/ha)
Total gains 4190 3940
Salient features of zero tillage sowing in wheat
under heavy soils of Patna
Resource Benefits rates over
Land preparation cost including sowing 1200
Saving in Seed 200 (20 kg/ha)
Saving in 1st irrigation 267 (12 lit/ha)
Saving in weeding 200
Increase income due to additional yield 4950 (8q/ha)
Total gains 6617
Salient features with pros and cons among zero
tillage, surface seeding and conventional sowing in
wheat under heavy soils of Patna - 2003
Land preparation cost
included sowing (Rs./acre)
240 00 800
Cost of diesel (Rs./acre) 60 00 300
Seed rate (kg/acre) 50 64 60
Advancing sowing date
over conventional (days)
10-12 15-22 --
Economics of Rice establishment in Patna-2002
Land preparation 00 200 200
Nursery raising 00 00 400
Puddling 00 500 500
Bund making 00 200 200
Rice planting/sowing 175 50 150
Weeding pre planting/ sowing 200 00 00
Weeding post planting/sowing 125 125 125
Total 500 1075 1575
Saving over conventional method 1075 500 --
*1 ha =4 Bighas Source: Dr.S.S.Singh
o Flooding risks reduced by 30-60 percent due to greater rainfall
infiltration. Better recharge of underground aquifers, improving
groundwater reserves and dry season flow in springs and
o Less herbicide use, more recycling of animal wastes; less
sedimentation and infrastructure damage, e.g. silting of
waterways, large dams;
o Reduced water treatment costs due to less sediment, less
bacterial and chemical contamination, and Savings of up to 50
percent in costs of maintenance and erosion avoidance on rural
o Reductions in fuel consumption of 50-70 percent or more and
proportional reduction in greenhouse gas emissions;
o Reduced pressure on the agricultural frontier and reduced
deforestation by high-yielding, sustainable conservation
agriculture and increased pasture carrying capacity through
rotation with annual crops;
o Enhanced diversity and activity of soil biota; Reduced carbon
emissions through less fuel use and enhanced carbon
sequestration by not destroying crop residues and
increasing, rather than losing, soil organic matter (FAO, 2001a).
Bed and furrow planting
Bed and furrow planting technology permits growing of
crops on beds with less water. This technique has been
tested for various crops and proved quite successful for
wheat, maize, rice, etc. Some of the advantages
associated with bed and furrow technology of crop
production are given below:
o Saving of about 30 percent irrigation water
o Less reduced chances of plant submergence due to
excessive rain or over-irrigation
o Lesser crusting of soil around plants
and, therefore, more suitable for saline and sodic soils
o Adaptable for various crops without changing basic
design/layout of farm
o Enhanced fertilizer use efficiency due to local application
o Minimum chances of crop lodging
Crop Residues Management
Majority of the farmers consider crop residues, particularly
their large amounts, as unwanted by-products and burn it.
The major losses/damages associated with burning of
wheat residues are as under:
o Deterioration of general condition of the soil
o Lowering of soil capability/fertility to produce high yields
o Burning of beneficial insects/micro-organisms in the soil
o Endangers natural environment
o Considerable financial loss to farmers as the residues
removed from fields could be used for some other purpose
e.g. fodder, straw sale, and kitchen fuel.
Major benefits of management of crop
o Better soil health and productivity
o Addition in organic matter contents
o Enhances infiltration rate
o Improves water and nutrients use efficiency
o Accelerates microbial activity
o Lowers weeds infestation
o Increases yield by 15-20 percent
o Reduces environmental pollution
o Removal of residues can provide additional income
from grain recovery and straw sale and also dry feed
„Conserving resources – enhancing productivity‟
o Availability of machinery/equipment for promotion of
resource conservation technologies is a prerequisite
for achieving targets of agricultural production.
Availability of the implement at economical cost is the
major constraint in promotion of bed planting of crops.
Likewise, machinery is not available for crop residue
management that is impeding the acceleration of this
o Organizing farmers’ days, holding of field
demonstrations, cross-farm visits of extension experts
and effective use of mass media i.e. print and
electronic media for transfer of technology may play a
major role in promotion of resource conservation
technologies amongst the farming community.
„Conserving resources – enhancing productivity‟
o Capacity building of farmers to acquire, test and adopt
the technologies through participatory approach will
enable them to seek resource conservation
technologies for their farms and thus they can reduce
their production cost and combat production
o Improvement in coordination among various
stakeholders (research, extension service, farmers,
service providers, agricultural machinery
manufacturers, etc.) for transfer of technologies will
play a pivotal role in accelerating the adoption of new