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Basic Practices of Crop Production – Preparation of Soil and Agriculture Implements
In order to raise a crop (or cultivate a crop) successfully and profitably for food production, a farmer has to perform a large number of tasks in a sequence (one after the other). The various tasks performed by a farmer to produce a good crop are called agricultural practices. The various agricultural practices which are carried out at various stages of crop production are :
- Preparation of soil,
- Adding manure and fertilisers,
- Removal of weeds,
- Harvesting, and
- Storage of food grains.
In addition to these regular agricultural practices, one more agricultural practice called ‘Rotation of crops’ is undertaken sometimes to improve the fertility of soil and increase the crop yield.
The various agricultural practices require certain tools or implements which are called agricultural implements. We will now describe all the agricultural practices in detail to know how food is produced on a large scale.
1. Preparation of Soil
The upper layer of earth is called soil. The crop plants are grown in soil. Soil provides minerals, water, air, humus and anchorage (fixing firmly), to the plants. Preparation of soil is the first step in cultivating a crop for food production. The soil is prepared for sowing the seeds of the crop by
- levelling, and
Each one of these steps has its own significance. This is described below.
The process of loosening and turning the soil is called ploughing (or tilling). Ploughing (or tilling) of fields is done by using an implement called plough. Ploughs are made of wood or iron, and they have an iron tip for easy penetration into the soil.
The ploughs are pulled by a pair of bullocks or by a tractor (see Figures). Actually, the ploughing of small fields is done with the help of animals like bullocks while large fields are ploughed by using tractors. The loosening of soil by ploughing is beneficial because of the following reasons :
- The loose soil allows the plant roots to penetrate freely and deeper into the soil so that plants are held more firmly to the ground.
- The loose soil allows the roots of plants to breathe easily (even when the roots are deep). This is because loose soil can hold a lot of air in its spaces.
- The loose soil helps in the growth of worms and microbes present in the soil who are friends of the farmer since they help in further turning and loosening the soil. They also add humus to the soil.
- Ploughing also uproots and buries the weeds (unwanted plants) standing in the field and thereby suffocates them to death.
- The loosening and turning of soil during ploughing brings the nutrient rich soil to the top so that the plants can use these nutrients.
If the soil is very dry, it breaks into large mud crumbs’ during ploughing. The mud crumbs are then broken down by using a soil plank called crumb crusher’.
The ploughed soil is quite loose so it is liable to be carried away by strong winds or washed away by rain water. The removal of top soil by wind and water is called soil erosion. The ploughed soil is levelled by pressing it with a wooden leveller (or an iron leveller) so that the top soil is not blown away by wind or drained off by water (and soil erosion is prevented). The levelling of ploughed soil is beneficial because of the following reasons :
- The levelling of ploughed fields (by pressing) prevents the top fertile soil from being carried away by strong winds or washed away by rain water.
- The levelling of ploughed fields helps in the uniform distribution of water in the fields during irrigation.
- The levelling helps in preventing the loss of moisture from the ploughed soil.
The levelling of ploughed soil in the fields is done by using an implement called leveller. The soil leveller is a heavy wooden plank or an iron plank. The soil leveller can be pulled by bullocks or by tractor.
‘Manuring’ means ‘adding manure to the soil’. Sometimes, manure is added to the soil before ploughing. Addition of manure to soil before ploughing helps in the proper mixing of manure with the soil. Manure is first transported to the fields. It is then spread out in the fields.
When this field is ploughed, the manure gets mixed in the soil properly. Manure contains many nutrients required for the growth of crop plants. So, manuring is done to increase the fertility of the soil before seeds are sown into it. Once the soil is ploughed, levelled and manured, it is ready for the sowing of seeds. The soil is watered before sowing.
Before sowing the seeds, it is necessary to loosen and turn the soil in the fields so as to break it to the size of grains. The loosening and turning of soil in the fields is done with the help of various agricultural implements (or tools). The main agricultural implements (or tools) used for loosening and turning the soil are : Plough, Hoe and Cultivator.
(i) PLOUGH :
Plough is a large agricultural implement which is used for ploughing (or tilling) the soil in the fields. The traditionally used wooden plough is shown in Figure 4. The wooden plough consists of a long log of wood which is called plough shaft (see Figure).
There is a handle at one end of the ploughshaft. Below the handle is a strong triangular iron strip called ploughshare. The other end of ploughshaft can be attached to a wooden beam which is fixed at right angles to the ploughshaft (see Figure). This beam is placed over the neck of two bullocks (or oxen) so as to pull the plough. Thus, the plough is drawn by a pair of bullocks (or other animals such as buffaloes, camels, etc.) (see Figure).
When the plough is pulled by the bullocks, the farmer holds the handle of the plough and presses down the handle due to which the ploughshare digs into the soil, loosens it and turns it. Nowadays, the traditional wooden plough is increasingly being replaced by the iron plough.
(ii) HOE :
Hoe is an agricultural implement (or tool) which is used for removing weeds, and loosening and turning the soil (see Figure). Hoe consists of a long rod of wood or iron. There is a handle (having grip) at one end of the hoe. A strong, broad and bent plate of iron is fixed below the handle and acts like a blade. The other end of hoe has a beam which is put on the neck of bullocks. Thus, a hoe is also pulled by animals such as a pair of bullocks. The hoe is a kind of modified plough.
(iii) CULTIVATOR :
The cultivator is a tractor driven agricultural implement which is used for loosening and turning the soil in the fields quickly (see Figure). A cultivator has many ploughshares which can dig into a considerable area of soil at the same time, loosen it and turn it.
Due to this, many fields can be ploughed (or tilled) in a short time by using a cultivator. In this way, the use of cultivator saves labour and time. Nowadays, ploughing of large fields is done by using the tractor driven cultivators (see Figure).