Back to search

Sustainable land management technologies: minimum soil disturbance



Minimum soil disturbance are actions that reduce the level of soil manipulation, for example by applying low soil disturbance to shallow depths or on small strips of land. This includes zero tillage (no-till), reduced (minimum) tillage, mulch tillage, ridge tillage and contour tillage, and also the practice of direct seeding. The technology can be applied to different land use types, including cropland.


According to the report on sustainable land management (SLM) by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), minimum soil disturbance is often implemented with the goal of maintaining or increasing soil fertility/quality, and can provide multiple co-benefits, such as reducing soil erosion and compaction, improving water availability and retention. In some cases, the technology has shown to increase soil organic carbon (SOC) storage, and could be considered a potential climate change mitigation option.

Examples of SLM best practices in minimum soil disturbance

Below are examples of best practices in minimum soil disturbance cited in the report on SLM by the SPI.

Maize strip tillage

Strip tillage is a cropping system for maize which reduces the reworking of the soil to the stripes, in which the seeds are planted. Strip tillage is a mixture between no tillage and conventional agriculture. Instead of ploughing and harrowing, a special rotary tiller including a grubber is used; it is used to avoid soil erosion or for economic reasons. The reworking of the soil, manuring, seeding and applying of herbicides can be done at once.

Continuous soil cover

Maintenance of continuous soil cover; alternating crops and cover crops as a practice to improve soil quality and reduce diffuse agricultural water pollution. Continuous cover cropping has been promoted as an agro-environmental measure to extend sustainable land management and reduce diffuse water pollution. The type of crop species depends on the crop succession. Compared with systems that do not use cover crops, continuous soil cover provides long-term agronomical and environmental benefits due to a reduction of negative impacts on agro-ecosystems.

Minimum tillage and direct planting

Leaving crop residues on the soil surface and subsequent planting through the mulch. The mulch layer has several important functions: it helps to increase and maintain water stored in the soil, reduces soil erosion, contributes to improve soil fertility and it efficiently controls weeds by hindering their growth and preventing weeds from producing seeds.


Read about other SLM technology groups


vegetation management

water management

grazing pressure management

animal waste management

sustainable forest management

reducing deforestation


forest restoration



soil erosion control

fire pest and diseases control



Read more: