Published by AMTEC on 19th Jul 2021

The Pros and Cons of Direct Drilling

Will direct drilling work for me?

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Pros and Cons of Direct Drilling

Also known as natural farming or no-till farming, direct drilling does not involve any direct soil cultivation. In this type of farming practice, the seeds are placed directly into the land at a particular depth. 


The history of direct tilling goes back to Edward Faulkner, an American agronomist who believed that no one had given any scientific reason for ploughing. After that, direct drilling has witnessed considerable growth. Direct tilling is also a method used in regenerative farming practices - check out our guide to the pros and cons of regenerative agriculture to find out more.

Pros of Direct Drilling

Conservation of moisture

No-till farming can be very significant in regions with dry climates where conservation of moisture is necessary. The reason being soil tillage increases erosion and evaporation. 


Reduction in soil erosion

When tilling loosens the soil after breaking it up, it makes the soil more vulnerable to erosion. Tilling makes the soil prone to erosion as plant leftovers, roots, dead leaves, stubble, and other crop residues from the previous season offer protection against wind erosion and rain erosion. 


Better soil biology

Tillage can damage the soil as it kills earthworms and other life forms in the soil that make the soil fertile and healthy. Thus, it prevents the ecosystem from becoming self-sufficient.  


Reduced soil compaction

A no-till system results in reduced compaction of the soil. That's because of significant improvisations in soil biology. An earthworm is an effective tool to prevent soil compaction. A good soil ecosystem strengthens the structure of the soil. Tilling of the soil is bad for its structure and makes it exposed to get compacted with machines. Roots and crop residues, including stubble, help keep the soil strong without allowing it to become compact. 


Saving of fuel

Ploughing happens to be among the highly fuel-consuming farming task. Hence, by switching to direct drill farming, farmers can make huge savings of fuel. 


Lesser herbicide runoff

When soils get protected, the same happens with your herbicides and pesticides too. Now that is a benefit of direct drilling. 


Saving of labour

By adopting no-tilling, farmers can make huge savings of labour costs. 


Trapped carbon

When soil is broken up by tilling, it results in trapped carbon getting released into the atmosphere. This leads to climatic changes. So, if we resort to no-tillage, we can reduce or limit greenhouse emissions. Moreover, crop health gets affected when organic carbon, which is good for soil fertility, gets released into the atmosphere. 

Cons of Direct Drilling

No-till has its own set of disadvantages, too. 


Long-term crop rotation required

Direct drilling requires long term crop rotation plans for enhancing soil fertility. 


In it for the long-term

It is a slow process and can result in a drop of around 5% in the following crop yield. Moreover, it may take several years for the soil and crop yield to return to normalcy in case of no-till. 


Uneven nutrient distribution

Tillage helps in the even distribution of nutrients in the soil as non-mobile nutrients cannot move in the same manner in the absence of tillage. 


Increased dependence on herbicides

To ward off weeds, farmers have to make increased use of herbicides in case of direct drilling. Tillage, on the other hand, helps in keeping weeds away. 


Insects and slugs

Not only weeds, even a host of harmful insects and parasites are also kept away by resorting to tillage. So, in case of no-tillage(direct drilling), farmers have no option but to depend on increased spraying for insect control at farms.


Upfront costs

The no-till process can require significant upfront costs for buying new machinery. Farmers wanting to switch over may find it challenging to do so due to huge expenses. 




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