Conservation Agriculture (CA) is based on the fact that natural processes must ensure the decomposition of crop residues and that life in the soil can replace tillage.
The principles of CA help promote natural soil processes and a good soil structure. If the starting point is poor, the natural processes will not work and therefore it will not be possible to achieve good results by switching to CA.
Before initiating a conversion to CA, it is therefore crucial to examine whether the prerequisites are present or whether there are challenges that need to be addressed.
A soil with a very low content of carbon/soil organic matter (SOM) will tend to compact and be subject to soil erosion and there will be limited biological activity. This would be a poor starting point for conversion to CA, as the poor soil structure increases the need for tillage and the low degree of biological activity will not be able to maintain soil structure.
It will therefore be necessary to improve the soil conditions before conversion to CA through an increased supply of organic material such as manure, crop residues and cover crops. These actions will increase the content of carbon/SOM and improve the soil structure, while the soil’s biological activity will increase.
If the starting point is very poor, the conversion can possibly be carried out in three steps where you start by increasing the supply of organic material for a period. Then move on to reduced tilling cultivation for a period. Finally, when both a better soil structure and more life in the soil are achieved, you can start converting to full CA.
Structural damage such as a plow pan and other compacted soil layers may in some cases also challenge a successful conversion to CA.
A poor drainage condition is always a poor starting point for plant growth. Since CA is based on well-functioning biological life in the soil, poor drainage is a particularly unfortunate starting point for CA cultivation.
It should therefore be examined whether the drainage condition of the soil is satisfactory prior to initiating the conversion to CA.