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Soil erosion is the main sustainability issue for farming in the cereal zone of
the WANA region. The impact of the four rotations on soil erosion is

The possible benefits of moisture storage still lingers on as an issue with
many farmers. This chapter shows how moisture storage (if it occurs) cannot justify the use of a long cultivated fallow.

Costs and returns are the major determinants of farmers profits. The cost of production for each rotation is examined both for small and large farmers.

Returns relate to the level of output and price. This chapter looks mainly at

For small farmers with few resources and financial reserves risk is
particularly import. A balance needs to be struck between high profits and

Each rotation has an inherent level of weed control. Other weed control
measures can be applied (see later chapters) but the natural ability of the
rotation to "clean" the land or otherwise is an important part of the decision
making process.

The amount of labour and the time it is used are an important aspect of each rotation.

This chapter looks at the capital requirements for each rotation but machinery is treated separately (see below)


Machinery is a special part of the general capital requirements. It is
particularly difficult for small farmers.

We have assumed that the starting point for most farmers is the growing of a cereal crop. We have examined the conflict between the requirement of the cereal crop and the new crop, new forage or pasture being introduced into the rotation.

Small farmers are resource poor. In this chapter we have selected the aspects of the above comparisons that would be appropriate for small farmers.

This chapter provide a framework for selecting a combination of the four
rotations and other variations.

The Zaghouan 4 rotation is not included in the comparison. It is an innovation from Tunisia that cleverly overcomes many of the problems of medic on small farms.

 Resource needs for the rotations

          The three topics "Working capital,"  "Machinery Needs" and  "Conflict with cereals" are all closely related and overlap to some degree. We have emphasised them because they are a frequently neglected aspect of the comparison between the rotations. Much of the farming innovation in the WANA region is "top down." It comes from research institutions (national and international) and filters its way down through the agricultural bureaucracy to the level of extension agent who is then instructed to pass it on to the farming community.

      Machinery and farm mechanisation are neglected within agricultural research institutions world-wide not just in the WANA region. The major research effort goes into the large plant and animal divisions. Most research scientists regard machinery research as something that is the province of the manufacturers not the research institutions. There are important exception such as the ICARDA medic pod harvester - a major machinery innovation for the WANA region.

    Machinery design and its suitability to the climate and soils are a low priority for research organisations.

Management and organisation of machinery on farms receives no priority at all. Research scientists rarely even realise that there is a problem.

Scientists work on research centres that are lavishly equipped with tractors and farm machinery. They conduct their trials on small plots.

The scientists have a combination of many machines and small areas. Farmers have few machines and large areas (even small farmers have large areas relative to the size of the plots used by scientists).

The scientists are able to organise the cultivation and sowing of their plots to a specific hour and certainly to specific days. Farmers may have to wait days or weeks for a contractors to arrive to cultivate or sow the land.

Farmers with their own machinery are in greater control but still need to balance the priorities of sowing cereals or vetch or grain legumes This is an experience that is totally foreign to most research scientists who will only experience delays due to adverse weather.

Some research scientist have had a glimpse of the mechanisation problems but have evaded the issue by saying that contractors are always available. This seriously under-rates the problem.

   * Contractor costs.

Contractors completely change the economics of farming. They introduce additional labour as well as machines. This may be of little concern to a large farmer already employing labour but for a small farmer with a surplus of family labour it creates a new cost.

Contractors need to be paid in cash. Crops established by contractors carry more risk because of their cash costs. A small farmer adopting a cereal-vetch rotation on all his farm using contractors to do all the work implies a high level of cash costs and risk that most small farmers are not prepared to take. Even a medium or large farmer may not have the tractor time to expand into these rotations.

   * Contracting fees.

    Even the use of contractors as an open ended resource for more tractor time is not valid over the long term.

In the short term,  a single farmer or a small group can adopt a new rotation which requires more tractor time. Contractors will have enough surplus capacity and flexibility to cope.  Over the longer term if the new rotations are widely adopted throughout the farming community the question of farm machinery cannot be evaded.

Admittedly the extra machinery may be purchased by contractors but they will pass on the costs to their farmer clients. The problem is postponed but not evaded for ever.

    In "Working capital" we compared the rotations in terms of their need for working capital. This includes fertiliser, seed, herbicides and machinery when contractors are used.

    In  "Conflict with cereals"  we look at the organisation and management of the farm machinery within the context of the four rotations.

    In this chapter -  "Machinery Needs" - we look at additional machinery requirements for each rotation.

 Cereal - fallow rotation

    * Cereal phase

    Machinery requirements are low. Lower than any other rotation except the Zaghouan 4. The initial cultivation of the soil was carried out during the previous fallow phase in the spring.

Secondary cultivation and seeding is carried out during the autumn. The soil has already been worked so further cultivation is easier and quicker.

This means that the work load for cultivating the soil is split between spring and autumn. In spring there is no great pressure to carry out the cultivated fallow in a short time.

Harvesting of the cereal crop is done in the summer.

    * Fallow phase.

    The land is ploughed or cultivated in the spring during a period when there are few other demands on tractor time. Fallowing can be considered as "off season" work.

Cereal - medic rotation.

    * Cereal phase

    Machinery requirements are greater than the cereal-fallow rotation when the traditional cereal-medic rotation is used.

All the cultivation work is now carried out in the autumn. It is not split into spring for primary cultivation and autumn for further cultivation.

If the farmer is going to carry out all the cultivating and seeding tasks in the same time as he did with the cereal-fallow rotation he will need twice the tractor capacity. Previously half the work was done outside the critical autumn period. Now it must all be done in the autumn. Extending the time will delay sowing and reduce yields.

Shallow cultivation must be used with medic and will reduce the time needed for cultivation by half. This means that shallow cultivation will return the tractor capacity to the same level as a cereal-fallow rotation combined with deep ploughing.

The cost of a scarifier for shallow cultivation will be similar to the package of implements used for deep ploughing. The scarifier will cost more than a deep plough because it is at least twice as wide as the plough it replaces.

The scarifier replaces all the cultivation implements used in the deep ploughing package (deep plough and cultivator or tandem disc). The cost of the scarifier is similar (even with the extra width) to the package of deep ploughs, cultivators and discs it replaces.

Harvester needed as for cereal-fallow.

    * Medic phase

    Virtually no machinery requirement. Phosphate fertiliser is applied but this can be done in summer when there are no other demands on tractor time. Medic is harvested by livestock grazing.

Cereal - vetch rotation.

    * Cereal phase

    Similar to cereal phase in medic rotation that is all cultivation and seeding must be done in the autumn.

Double the tractor capacity is needed compared to the cereal in the cereal-fallow rotation.

Again shallow cultivation instead of deep ploughing can save farmers considerable time.

    * Vetch phase

    Machinery requirements similar to cereals above. That is the land devoted to vetch must be cultivated and sown in the autumn. The standard of seedbed preparation may be slightly lower but this will only save a small amount of time.

The vetch is usually cut for hay. Cutting raking and baling equipment needed.

Cereal - grain legume rotation.

    * Cereal phase

    Similar to cereal phase in medic rotation or vetch rotation.

    * Grain legume phase

    Similar to vetch as all cultivation and seeding must be carried out in the autumn but slightly greater tractor time required as seedbeds for grain legumes need to be prepared to a higher standard.

Better weed control and level ground are essential.

Harvesting machinery is required. While cereal harvesters can be adapted to harvest grain legumes in practice most farmers find it more practical to have separate cereal and grain legume harvesters.

Zaghouan 4 Rotation.

    * Cereal phase

    This rotation makes few demands on machinery resources as only one quarter of the land is cultivated and sown. The cereal-fallow rotation required half the land to be sown to cereals each year.

The Zaghouan 4 rotation includes a fallow which splits the cultivation period between spring and autumn thus reducing the demand for tractor time even further.

    * Medic phase

    Only fertiliser application needs some tractor time. The medic is established using pods over the cereal crop. A small pod harvester is required or must be hired.

Mixing rotations

    A farmer will probably mix rotations is such a way that the machinery needs can be balanced.

For example flat land in the bottom of the valley may be ideal for the production of grain legumes in rotation with cereals. They will need more tractor time.

The slopes of the hills will have a shallower soil profile. Yield potential for cereals will be lower. Erosion risks will be higher. The farmer may adopt a Zaghouan 4 rotation on the slopes. The lower machinery and tractor requirements will balance the additional needs of the grain legumes.

Farmer training kits provide a more details description of the machinery.