Impact of Tillage Methods on Environment, Energy and Economy

  • Egidijus ŠarauskisEmail author
  • Zita Kriaučiūnienė
  • Kęstutis Romaneckas
  • Sidona Buragienė
Part of the Sustainable Agriculture Reviews book series (SARV, volume 33)


Soil tillage involves the mechanical manipulation of soils used for crop production. Tillage is done to prepare an optimal seedbed, to loosen compacted soil layers, to control weeds, to increase aeration, to incorporate plant residues into the soil, to facilitate water infiltration and soil moisture storage, and to control soil temperature. Nonetheless, soil tillage is one of the highest energy-consuming, environment-polluting and expensive technological processes in agriculture. Conventional tillage with ploughing is the most widely used practice. Conventional tillage has low efficiency, requires high-powered tractors with high fuel consumption and greenhouse gases emissions. Moreover, the cost of conventional tillage is high, and the influence on the soil structure, degradation, leaching of nutrients and the most fertile soil is negative. Here we review the impact of tillage methods on soil quality, environment and economy.

Due to the disadvantages of conventional tillage, sustainable tillage area increases each year by 4–6 million ha worldwide. Under sustainable tillage such as minimal or no-tillage, the total soil surface modified by the wheels of agricultural machinery is 20–40% lower than for conventional tillage. Sustainable tillage preserves better soil physical properties and biological processes. A comparison of tillage methods show that no-tillage has the highest energy efficiency ratio of 14.0, versus 12.4 for deep ploughing. The most expensive tillage operation is deep ploughing. The use of agricultural machinery under sustainable tillage conditions and preparation of soils without using a plough can reduce costs from 25% to 41%, compared with conventional tillage.


Tillage Soil Properties CO2 emissions Fuel Consumption Energy Costs Environment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Egidijus Šarauskis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zita Kriaučiūnienė
    • 2
  • Kęstutis Romaneckas
    • 2
  • Sidona Buragienė
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Agricultural Engineering and SafetyAleksandras Stulginskis UniversityKaunasLithuania
  2. 2.Institute of Agroecosystems and Soil ScienceAleksandras Stulginskis UniversityKaunasLithuania

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