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AGRICULTURE REPORT – November 27, 2001: Low-Till Farming - 2001-11-27

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Scientists are reporting a major development in the agriculture of South Asia. The scientists say many farmers there are deciding to limit the use of plows. They say this move could lead to improved agriculture among farmers in Asia.

Scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center made the announcement. The Center is based in Mexico.Farmers use plows to prepare their fields for planting crops. Plows cut into the ground and lift up weeds and other unwanted plants. However, plowing is blamed for causing severe damage to topsoil by removing the plants that protect the soil from being blown or washed away.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center supports a process called low-till farming. Low-till farming limits the use of plows. In this method of farming, seeds and fertilizer are put into the soil through small cuts made in the surface of the ground.

The Center says low-till agriculture leaves much or all of the soil and remains of plants on the ground. They serve as a natural fertilizer and help support the roots of future crops. They protect the rich topsoil. They take in rain and allow it to flow into the soil instead of running off. The Center says low-till farming increases harvests and reduces water use. And it says this method reduces the need for chemical products because there are fewer unwanted plants.

The scientists say low-till farming is becoming popular in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. They note that South Asia is facing an extreme lack of water crisis. They say the area will become dependent on imported food unless water is saved through methods like low-till farming.

Currently, more than one-hundred-fifty-million people in South Asia depend on local rice and wheat crops. Farmers grow rice during wet weather. During the dry season, they grow wheat in the same fields. Farmers are using the low-till method to plant wheat after harvesting rice. Scientists report that this method is increasing in India and Pakistan. For example, areas using low-till farming increased from three-thousand hectares in Nineteen-Ninety-Nine to one-hundred-thousand hectares this year.

Scientists say low-till agriculture is one of the best examples in the world of technologies working for both people and the environment.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.