Cornell Conservation Agriculture - Global Research and Resources
CA is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil's structure, composition and natural biodiversity. Despite high variability in the types of crops grown and specific management regimes, all forms of conservation agriculture share three core principles. These include:
- maintenance of permanent or semi-permanent soil cover (using either a previous crop residue or specifically growing a cover crop for this purpose);
- minimum soil disturbance through tillage (just enough to get the seed into the ground) ;
- regular crop rotations to help combat the various biotic constraints;
CA also uses or promotes where possible or needed various management practices listed below:
- utilization of green manures/cover crops (GMCC's) to produce the residue cover;
- no burning of crop residues;
- integrated disease and pest management;
- controlled/limited human and mechanical traffic over agricultural soils.
When these CA practices are used by farmers one of the major environmental benefits is reduction in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But they also reduce the power/energy needs of farmers who use manual or animal powered systems.