Reduced tillage of almonds and olives [Spain]

Labranza reducida de almendros y olivos

technologies_1711 - Spain

Completeness: 69%

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)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)

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:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Reduced tillage of almonds and olives to improve physical and chemical soil properties and reduce runoff and soil erosion.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Reduced tillage of almond and olive orchards is used to decrease fuel use and emission of greenhouse gases and maintain a higher surface cover by weeds during winter time in order to protect the soil from erosion.

Purpose of the Technology: Under reduced tillage, the fields are ploughed twice a year: once in autumn (November) and once in late sping (June), whereas under conventional tillage fields are ploughed 3-5 times per year. The aim of reduced tillage is to maintain better surface cover during winter months to reduce runoff and soil erosion. After several years this will result in a higher soil organic matter content, a better soil structure, and a higher soil water infiltration capacity. The soil cover by weeds reduces the sensitivity of the soil to surface crusting and reduces surface runoff and soil erosion by up to 60%. Workload and energy use with reduced tillage is up to 50% lower than under conventional agriculture. The increased farm income prevents land abandonment of marginal lands with low productivities under conventional farming. Reduced tillage of almonds does not require special establishment activities or investments in specialized equipment.

Natural / human environment: Reduced tillage can easily be combined with green manure and ecological agriculture as is described in QT SPA05: ecological production of almonds and olives using green manure. Soils have mostly a shallow to medium depth (between 20-60 cm), and slopes are gentle to moderate between 5 and 15%. The climate is semi-arid with a mean annual rainfall around 300 mm. Droughts, centred in summer, commonly last for more than 4-5 months. Annual potential evapotranspiration rates greater than 1000 mm are common. The production system is highly mechanized and market oriented but depends strongly on agricultural subsidies. All cropland is privately owned.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

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



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Guadalentín catchment

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 10-100 km2

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:
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

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

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agroforestry



  • Tree and shrub cropping
Tree and shrub cropping - Specify crops:
  • olive
  • tree nuts (brazil nuts, pistachio, walnuts, almonds, etc.)

Longest growing period in days: 220Longest growing period from month to month: Nov-Jun

Grazing land

Grazing land

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Lack of water for irrigation of crops limiting the crop types that can be planted as well as the crop yield of dryland farming. A lack of water availability seriously limits the production potential of the soil and results in a low vegetation/crop cover. The relatively high soil erosion rates cause various off-site related problems (i.e. flooding, reservoir siltation) and on-site problems (i.e. gully formation and reduced soil depth).

Livestock is grazing on crop residues

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • minimal soil disturbance
  • Reduced tillage

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A7: Others

Main measures: agronomic measures

Specification of other agronomic measures: reduced tillage

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wo: offsite degradation effects
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
  • Cp: soil pollution
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bp: increase of pests/ diseases, loss of predators

Main type of degradation addressed: Wo: offsite degradation effects, Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content, Cp: soil pollution, Bp: increase of pests / diseases, loss of predators

Main causes of degradation: soil management, education, access to knowledge and support services

Secondary causes of degradation: crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub)

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

Main goals: prevention of land degradation, mitigation / reduction of land degradation

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Autumn ploughing of an almond orchard with reduced tillage

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap, control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, control of concentrated runoff: retain / trap, improvement of ground cover

Secondary technical functions: increase in organic matter, increase of infiltration, increase / maintain water stored in soil


Joris de Vente

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. 1. Ploughing twice a year instead of 3-5 times(resulting in a reduction of the costs compared to the conventional tillage practice)

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


Machinery/ tools: Costs were assessed comparing conventional land management with reduced tillage, which needs less inputs thus meaning a saving compared to conventional practice. Fuel price is the most determining factor affecting the costs. The local wage rate is 79 US$/

The local wage rate is 79 US$/day. Prices are for spring 2008.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Costs were assessed comparing conventional land management with reduced tillage, which needs less inputs thus meaning a saving compared to conventional practice (97 USD per hectare per year). Fuel price is the most determining factor affecting the costs.

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: subtropics

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.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Landforms: plateau / plains, hill slopes, footslopes, valley floors

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:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is low
Soil drainage/infiltration is poor
Soil water storage capacity is medium

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

for agricultural use only (irrigation)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users

Population density: 10-50 persons/km2

Annual population growth: < 0.5%

80% of the land users are average wealthy and own 75% of the land.

Off-farm income specification: There is no difference in the ones who apply the technology and those who don’t. Most farmers do have an off-farm income for example from hunting, work in a factory, or office.

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)?
  • small-scale

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

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • individual

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • 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

Income and costs

farm income




Socio-cultural impacts

recreational opportunities


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


Improved livelihoods and human well-being

Comments/ specify:

Farm income of most farmers has increased due to lower production costs

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


soil crusting/ sealing


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

plant diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream siltation


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 not well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period well

The crop type is sensitive to changes in water availability under the semi-arid conditions.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

slightly positive

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

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

slightly positive

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

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

There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Reduced tillage has a very positive effect on the reduction of erosion and runoff, on soil quality and biodiversity

How can they be sustained / enhanced? If maintained it will lead potentially to higher yields after several years
Production costs are reduced

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Yield and farm income may be increased by combining this technology with green manure under ecological agriculture (QT SPA05)

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?
On the short term no increase in yield is obtained Combine the technique with green manure or ecological agriculture as described in QT SPA05

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Holland, J.M., 2004. The environmental consequences of adopting conservation tillage in Europe: reviewing the evidence. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 103(1): 1-25.

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