Mechanical Methods Of Moisture Conservation Techniques

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The basic principle are:

(i) shaping the land surface manually or with implements in such a way as to reduce the velocity of runoff,

(ii) to allow more time for rainfall to stand on soil surface, and

(iii) to facilitate more infiltration of rainfall into soil layers. Choice of any particular method under a given situation is influenced by rainfall characters, soil type, crops, sowing methods and slope of land.

(i) Basin listing: Formation of small depressions (basins) of 10–15 cm depth and 10–15 cm width at regular intervals using an implement called basin lister. The small basins collect rainfall and improve its storage. It is usually done before sowing. It is suitable for all soil types and crops.

(ii) Bunding: Formation of narrow based or broad based bunds across slope at suitable intervals depending on slope of field. The bunds check the free flow of runoff water, impound the rainwater in the inter-bund space, increase its infiltration and improve soil moisture storage. Leveling of inter-bund space is essential to ensure uniform spread of water and avoid water stagnation in patches. It can be classified into three types:

(a) Contour bunding: Bunds of 1 m basal width, 0.5 m top width and 0.5 m height are formed along the contour. The distance between two contour bunds depends on slope. The interbund surface is leveled and used for cropping. It is suitable for deep red soils with slope less than 1%. It is not suitable for heavy black soils with low infiltration where bunds tend to develop cracks on drying. Contour bunds are permanent structures and require technical assistance and heavy investment.

(b) Graded/field bunding: Bunds of 30-45 cm basal width, and 15-20 cm height are formed across slope at suitable intervals of 20-30 m depending on slope. The inter-bund area is leveled and cropped. It is suitable for medium deep-to-deep red soils with slopes up to 1%. It is not suitable for black soils due to susceptibility to cracking and breaching. Bunds can be maintained for 2-3 seasons with reshaping as and when required.

(c) Compartmental bunding: Small bunds of 15 cm width and 15 cm height are formed in both directions (along and across slope) to divide the field into small basins or compartments of 40 sq. m. size (8 × 5 m). It is suitable for red soils and black soils with a slope of 0.5-1%. The bunds can be formed before sowing or immediately after sowing with local wooden plough. It is highly suitable for broadcast sown crops. CRIDA has recommended this method as the best in situ soil moisture conservation measure for Kovilpatti region of Tamil Nadu. Maize, sunflower, sorghum performs well in this type of bunding.

(iii) Ridges and furrows: Furrows of 30-45 cm width and 15-20 cm height are formed across slope. The furrows guide runoff water safely when rainfall intensity is high and avoid water stagnation. They collect and store water when rainfall intensity is less. It is suitable for medium deep-todeep black soils and deep red soils. It can be practiced in wide row spaced crops like cotton, maize, chillies, tomato etc. It is not suitable for shallow red soils, shallow black soils and sandy/ gravelly soils. It is not suitable for broadcast sown crops and for crops sown at closer row spacing less than 30 cm. Since furrows are formed usually before sowing, sowing by dibbling or planting alone is possible.

Tie ridging is a modification of the above system of ridges and furrows where in the ridges are connected or tied by a small bund at 2–3 m interval along the furrows. Random tie ridging is another modification where discontinuous furrows of 20–25 cm width, 45–60 cm length and 15 cm depth are formed between clumps or hills of crops at the time of weeding. Yet another modification of ridges and furrows method is the practice of sowing in lines on flat beds and formation of furrows between crop rows at 25–30 DAS. This enables sowing behind plough or through seed drill.

(iv) Broad Bed Furrow (BBF): Here beds of 1.5 m width, 15 cm height and convenient length are formed, separated by furrows of 30 cm width and 15 cm depth. Crops are sown on the beds at required intervals. It is suitable for heavy black soils and deep red soils. The furrows have a gradient of 0.6%. Broad bed furrow has many advantages over other methods.

• It can accommodate a wide range of crop geometry i.e., close as well as wide row spacing.

• It is suitable for both sole cropping and intercropping systems.

• Furrows serve to safely guide runoff water in the early part of rainy season and store rainwater in the later stages.

• Sowing can be done with seed drills.

• It can be formed by bullock drawn or tractor drawn implements. Bed former cum seed drill enables BBF formation and sowing simultaneously, thus reducing the delay between rainfall receipts and sowing.

(v) Dead furrow- At the time of sowing or immediately after sowing, deep furrows of 20 cm depth are formed at intervals of 6–8 rows of crops. No crop is raised in the furrow. Sowing and furrowing are done across slope. It can be done with wooden plough in both black and red soils.

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