Minimum Tillage [Russian Federation]

Минимальная обработка

technologies_1315 - Russian Federation

Completeness: 73%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Book project: Making sense of research for sustainable land management (GLUES)
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Sustainable land management in the Russian steppes (KULUNDA / GLUES)

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

Vocational Training

Vocational Training [Russian Federation]

Regular in-service training of land use specialists and farm managers in the fields of sustainable land use management, and monitoring in the agrarian sector.

  • Compiler: Peter Liebelt
Field days

Field days [Russian Federation]

Field days are events for regional stakeholders, mainly farmers in the study area, to discuss their demands regarding scientific help, and to be informed about the activities and results of new methods and technologies for conservation agriculture.

  • Compiler: Peter Liebelt

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Minimum tillage is a one-pass operation combined with sowing, using a classic Russian seeder modified for seedbed preparation and soil mixing. It can include shallow stubble cultivation after harvesting.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Minimum tillage is a key element of the "adapted Soviet cropping system", which aims at more sustainable land use but based on predominantly local technologies. For successful implementation of minimum tillage, adaption of the whole cropping system is required, including crop rotation. Rotation includes a succession of cereal crops (e.g. spring wheat), legumes (peas), and oil seed crops. Stubble cultivation in autumn is best performed with the "Catros" compact disc harrow for a quick, shallow operation. Seedbed preparation is carried out using a classic Russian seeder modified with wing shares for shallow seedbed preparation including soil mixing. In general, the performance of this drill is very close to that of a cultivator.

Minimizing tillage, saves time and fuel, and also helps to reduce evaporation, as well as protecting the soil against erosion. Shallow tillage with disc harrows after harvest ensures better stubble mixing and stimulates the germination of weed seeds. The adapted seeder, SZS 2.1, works with wing shares that open the soil and place the seed. Thus traditional deep tillage operations for the preparation of the seedbed can are omitted: that helps to reduce costs. With respect to crop protection, the first and most important element is to implement a full crop rotation. To control late germinating weeds and seeds of the previous crop, a disc harrow is used for shallow cultivation – this can be supplemented by the application of a non-selective herbicide if there is germination - to avoid the risk of flowering before the hard frost sets in. Fertilization becomes more important, because of the decreased mineralization rate under minimized soil tillage, especially at the beginning of the conversion of the cropping system.

The Technology including crop rotation was tested in the field in 4 test plots with 4 repetitions at the test site in Poluyamki. Results showed that the intensity of soil tillage and seeding methods used had a great influence on crop establishment and expected yields. It was demonstrated that minimizing tillage leads to higher water use efficiency and highest yields. Positive effects were also observed regarding soil structure and soil fertility already after 3 years. Minimized soil disturbance led to higher aggregate stability, which leads to a lower risk of wind erosion, increased soil organic carbon storage and soil fertility as well as available soil water content. The adapted Soviet system is more profitable, due to higher gross margins.

The test site in Poluyamki is located in the dry steppe of the border region next to Kazakhstan, where, due to the climatic conditions, no natural afforestation occurs, and the planted windbreaks don’t grow vigorously due to the prevailing aridity. The annual precipitation is under 300 mm a year. Probably the greatest climatic influence factor is the precipitation - in terms of quantity and space/ time distribution and, due to high summer temperatures, the high rates of evapotranspiration. The total yearly precipitation rate is the primary yield-limiting factor in all steppe regions. The ratio between precipitation and evaporation is negative. In the late weeks of spring, prolonged droughts must be expected in 5-year cycles, limiting germination and crop establishment. The soils are classed among those of cool-tempered grasslands. Due to their physical and chemical characteristics, these soils (Chernozems and Kastanozems) have high agronomic potential.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment


Russian Federation

Region/ State/ Province:

Russian Federation/Altai Krai

Further specification of location:

Mikhaylovski district (Pavlovski district, Mamontovski district)

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):


If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 0.1-1 km2

Boundary points of the Technology area: Centre latitude: _52° 4'3.00"N Centre longitude: 79°54'26.16"E Test site Poluyamki
Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.13 km2.
The total investigation area of the SLM Technology “Minimum Tillage” refers to the test site areas: 1. Poluyamki, Mikhaylovskiy Rayon: 13ha ; 2. Pervomayskiy, Mamontovskiy Rayon: 10ha and 3. Komsomolskiy, Pavlovskiy Rayon: 3ha all managed by Minimum Tillage. This questionnaire is related to the test site in Poluyamki, Mikhaylovskiy Rayon

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Already during the Soviet land use periode temporal,especially after the Virgin land campagne (1954-'63)efforts were made to minimize soil tillage intensity to obtain from conventional ploughing system. An important scientific thinker for this innovative farming systems was T. C. Malcev. But at this time the new approaches for minimized tillage systems were not seriously implemented in Russia. Only in the last decade a significant trend towards minimum soil tillage can be recodnized in the Russian agriculture

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 110, Longest growing period from month to month: May-October


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): The decrease of soil organic carbon content in the soils and loss of topsoil depth has led to a decrease in soil fertility. Additionally, the negative soil water balance due to the high summer temperatures and evaporation, and the high spatial and temporal variability of precipitation, is a serious problem relating to the lack of soil water.
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): The land users who were involved in the studies and implemented the new farming practices have a similar opinion. But there are still a lot of farmers that underestimate the ecological risks of soil degradation resulting from conventional/ traditional soil management.

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
  • A3: Soil surface treatment
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.2: Reduced tillage (> 30% soil cover)

management measures

management measures

  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level

Type of agronomic measures: better crop cover, mulching, green manure, mineral (inorganic) fertilizers, rotations / fallows, minimum tillage, non-inversion tillage

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
  • Ed: deflation and deposition
  • Eo: offsite degradation effects
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pc: compaction

Main causes of degradation: soil management (Conventional (intensive) soil tillage by phloughing), crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (Bare fallow (without any vegetation cover)), wind storms / dust storms (Strong wind and storm (local name: Sukhovey) from the south-western central-Asiatic semi-desert regions cause a higher risk of wind erosion especially on traditional cropland without plant cover), droughts (The frequently occurring early-summer drought periods are particularly problematic for agricultural production)
Secondary causes of degradation: education, access to knowledge and support services (The linkages between research, education, extension services and end users need to strengthened, for better knowledge creation and transfer. Need for more efficient and qualified advisory service), Capital for investments (Lack of capital for investment in modern adapted agricultural technologies)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Soviet Seeder SZS 2.1 with wing shares for shallow soil mixing and seed bed preparation.
Location: Poluyamki. Altai Krai
Date: 20.05.2015

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high
Technical knowledge required for land users: high
Main technical functions: improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), increase in organic matter, increase of infiltration, increase / maintain water stored in soil, sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting
Secondary technical functions: control of raindrop splash, control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap, control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, control of concentrated runoff: retain / trap, control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard, improvement of surface structure (crusting, sealing), improvement of subsoil structure (hardpan), stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides), increase in nutrient availability (supply, recycling,…), reduction in wind speed, increase of biomass (quantity)

Better crop cover
Material/ species: Crop rotation without bare fallow
Material/ species: stubble cultivation with disc harrow or harrow weeder
Quantity/ density: 1/year
Green manure
Material/ species: pea
Mineral (inorganic) fertilizers
Material/ species: fertilization with calcium ammonium nitrate
Quantity/ density: yearly
Remarks: (100kg/ha (spring wheat and rape), 50kg (pea)
Rotations / fallows
Material/ species: wheat-pea-wheat-raps
Minimum tillage
Material/ species: Catros (disc harrow) and Seeder СЗС2.1 (wing shares)
Remarks: Catros (depth: 10 cm) after harvest (autumn) and Seeder in May)
Non-inversion tillage
Material/ species: Catros (disc harrow) and Seeder СЗС2.1 (wing shares)
Remarks: Catros (depth: 10 cm) after harvest (autumn) and Seeder in May)


Lars-Christian Grunwald

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Stubble cultivation september
2. Seeding late april/early may
3. Seeding (extension)
4. Pest management period of vegetation
5. Pest management (extension)
6. Harvest september

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour labour ha 1.0 4.34 4.34 100.0
Equipment machine use ha 1.0 37.4 37.4 100.0
Equipment fuel ha 1.0 47.34 47.34 100.0
Plant material seeds ha 1.0 25.3 25.3 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides fertilizer ha 1.0 30.83 30.83 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides pesticides ha 1.0 9.42 9.42 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 154.63
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 154.63

The costs refers to 1ha land of the test field in Poluyamki.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The highest cost factors of minimum tillage are equipment, fuel, fertilizer and seeds. Compared to the conventional deep ploughing often without fertilizer application, fertilizer and pesticides are the main additional cost factors.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: temperate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
  • very rich
Individuals or groups:
  • employee (company, government)
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly Leaders / privileged
There are generally less woman than men in rural regions caused by rural-urban migration. Furthermore, jobs in the agricultural sector are not so attractive for woman.
Population density: 10-50 persons/km2
Annual population growth: negative

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • large-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • leased
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)

state: 45%, the data refer to the Altai Krai

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Comments/ specify:

In the first years after the change of the cropping system, there is an increased risk of crop losses due not correct/suitable management of the new cropping system

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

Comments/ specify:

mainly for initial investments and herbicides in the first years

farm income

Comments/ specify:

but increase of costs for herbicides and fertilizer; decrease for fuel and labor

Other socio-economic impacts

Increase use of herbicide applications

Comments/ specify:

particular necessary in the first years after the imlementation of the minimum tillage system

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency

Comments/ specify:

In general yes, but food security is not a problem in this region.

conflict mitigation


contribution to human well-being

Comments/ specify:

Technology makes a contribution to the long-term productivity of the soil – the most important factors in the rural areas of the Kulunda region. Furthermore, it leads to an increase in efficiency and to an improvement of the economic situation of farms, which might lead to a decrease in out-migration of the youth.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff




soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


soil compaction


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

beneficial species

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases


wind velocity

Other ecological impacts

Increased use of herbicide application

Comments/ specify:

Especially in the first years after the implementation of the minimum tillage system.

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability

Comments/ specify:

there is a higher content of soil moisture under minimum tillage than under traditional ploughing especially in dry weather periods / drought periods.

wind transported sediments


damage on neighbours' fields


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period not well

The increase of air temperature and wind lead to an increase of the evapotransporation rate and consequently, as well as rainfall decrease and droughts, to a decrease of soil water content that is one of the most important limiting factor in crop production. The minimization of soil tillage intensity helps to reduce the evapotranspiration rate and thus leads to a higher soil water content. The stubble slow down the wind, that protect the soil against erosion and reduce the evapotranspiration rate.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly positive

Long-term returns:


6.5 Adoption of the Technology


100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

The 3 farms/ sites where minimum tillage was tested were already interested in conservation technologies and were able to invest in new machinery, which is not representative of the whole Kulunda region. There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption, but this trend depends on different natural and socioeconomic factors, like precipitation or the economic situation and financial power of the farmers.
There is a trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology, but this trend depends on different natural and socioeconomic factors like the precipitation or conditions an economic situation of the financial power of the farms. For example the drier the conditions, the more sense is to minimize the tillage. But there is a need to invest in new machinery. An advantage of the tested Adapted Soviet System in contrast to the Modern Soviet System is the less need for new machinery through the use of old Soviet machinery.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Increase of soil aggregate stability and improved soil structure thus better erosion control and protection of soil organic matter will improve soil fertility and water holding capacity
Minimization of evaporation losses through the mulch layer
Protection of soil organisms thus ensuring natural soil forming processes
Lower input costs (materials, fuel, labour, time) and quicker field operations.
A great advantage of the tested ‘minimum tillage’ in contrast to ‘no till‘ is that the former needs no new machinery because of the use and adaptation of old Soviet machinery.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Need for comprehensive system knowledge and risk of significant crop losses in case of incorrect implementation Knowledge transfer, Capacity building and extension services, State support (subsidies for new technologies)
Application of chemical herbicides leads to higher costs and possible ecological risks Selective spraying using the “Amaspot” system that is based on infrared detection of weeds.
Higher requirements for fertilizers, especially at the beginning, due to lower mineralization rates and less nutrient availability compared to conventional cultivation Higher fertilizer application in the first years after conversion.
Challenging straw management that leads to higher risk of fungal infestation and poorer field crop emergence Good straw management: effective straw chopping and spreading as well as stubble cultivation for an optimal straw/ soil ratio.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


Links and modules

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