Investing in improving the sustainability of dryland agriculture is an important part of watershed management and land use strategy that can enhance the conservation of soil, water, biodiversity and plant resources while delivering environmental services. It is also an important part of sustainable agricultural development strategies to improve production skills, land productivity and the economic viability of farmers. Improvement in rainfed agriculture in a semi-arid environment depends particularly on ensuring sufficient soil water supply for crop growth and development. 

In practice, this corresponds to maximizing the infiltration and retention of rainfall water into the soil and minimizing soil evaporation. Thus, the first step in the optimal management of soil moisture for crop production is the maximization of the capture and retention of rainfall water in the soil. Infiltration of rainfall into the soil requires that the soil surface is open, whereas retention of water in the soil depends on soil porosity and soil depth.

Conservation Agriculture (CA) has proved to enhance water infiltration and retention, and it minimizes soil evaporation because it avoids or minimizes soil mechanical disturbance, maintains a soil biomass cover and enhances soil aggregate stability by increasing the soil organic matter (SOM) content over time and improving soil biology.

Tillage-based soil management in agriculture on sloping lands leads to increased rainfall water runoff and erosion of topsoil so that water infiltration into the soil is reduced. Additionally, excessive tillage and poor management of soil health and biology leads to a decrease in soil water retention and increased loss of moisture from the soil profile.

Improving water infiltration and soil water retention in production areas by reducing runoff and soil degradation and increasing soil porosity and aggregate stability can double or triple yields of rainfed crops. This can be done with CA production systems.

CA is an ecological approach to regenerative sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management based on the practical application of 3 context-specific and locally adapted interlinked principles:

Continuous no or minimum mechanical soil disturbance (no-till seeding/planting and weeding, and minimum soil disturbance)

Permanent maintenance of soil mulch cover (crop biomass, stubble and cover crops)

Diversification of cropping systems (economically, environmentally and socially adapted rotations and/or sequences and/or associations involving annuals and/or perennials, including legumes and cover crops)

These essential practices are combined and enhanced with other complementary practices of integrated crop, soil, nutrient, water, pest, labor, energy and land management practices to generate and sustain optimum performance of productivity and ecosystem societal services.

CA systems are present in all continents, involving all land-based production Systems — both rainfed and irrigated. CA offers the best soil moisture management strategy for dryland agriculture in Iran. The area using CA in Iran has been increasing throughout the country with the cooperation of more farmers. Currently, more than 740,000 acres of agricultural land in Iran is currently managed with the CA approach.

Dr. Mohammad Esmaeil Asadi poses with no-till safflower in wheat residue in the Golestan Province in the northern part of Iran. The area receives less than 12 inches of rainfall annually because it loses roughly 66 inches of moisture per year through evaporation.

CA is considered to be the alternate approach to producing agricultural products sustainably and profitably. Its benefits include maximum production with the use of minimum purchased inputs. CA helps to manage the soil moisture optimally because of the minimal physical operations on the soil and retained crop biomass mulch on the soil surface.

CA is also considered to be the best strategy to achieve stability of production performance in the conditions of climate change because of its increased adaptability, including its ability to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, investing in improving water and soil management in rainfed farming through CA should be a part of the watershed-based land use strategy in Iran for the optimal use of agricultural resources and for the improvement of rural livelihoods, food security and economic growth.

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Since 1991, Martin Industries has designed, manufactured and sold leading agriculture equipment across the U.S. and Canada. Known for Martin-Till planter attachments, the company has expanded to include a five-step planting system, closing wheel systems, twisted drag chains, fertilizer openers and more in their lineup. Their durable and reliable planter attachments are making it possible for more and more farmers to plant into higher levels of residue.

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