To Plough or not - Land unused for 15-20 years

Hi Team,

We will be in  hold of about 7 acres of land in AP 30 kms from Chittor.
While we are exited about getting back to nature & farming one of the biggest questions pondering us is weather we should till the land or not since its not used for over 15-20 years. Land has not been under cultivation over years making the soil hard in some ares & there are certain parts of the land where it is always damp due to water seepage from a neighboring lake.

We want to first fence the land & then plan for Long term, medium term & short term crops.
We are thinking of Teak & Red sanders. Areca is also on high priority for us.
Fruit orchard with mix of mange, chickoo & pomegranate. Medium term we want to try Banana.
Set aside a small portion for Green house or shade net.
Vegetables for short term.

We want to stick to natural farming without doubt irrespective of the yield & to support the same we will add local breed cows.

The foremost question for us now is should we till the land or not given the above facts.
Can you please help me take the right decisions.


Resp Sri Kumar sir, I am a farmer and I want inform you the following facts. Water logging can not be tolerated by many of the crops like your wish of Teak, Redsandal,Areca,Mango,Pomegranate and vegetables except crops like paddy etc( very few crops ). If you want to grow your wish crops, immediately, take min 2 feet depth drains all around your land to see that seepage water drains out and increase the soil level by atleast 1.5 ft ,either whole or at required places.                            Afterwards you can follow Natural Farming and/or organic farming. g.p.rao, farmer

Respected Rao Sir,

Please call me Kumar Just Kumar.
Thank you so much for your advice, we will do the trench system in the middle & around the swamp areas, connect it to pits & will ensure 2 feet filling is done in the swamp areas as suggested by you.
Filling the land in entirety with soil from external sources is going to be an expensive affair.
We were told that it would require at-least 200-300 loads of mud with over 2 months of JCB work to level the land & ensure no seepage which i don’t know if it is required however i do not have the resources to do the same.

Sir, once i do the above developments, is it required to till the entire land using tractors since some part of land has become hard.
Can you please guide me on how to prepare the land before going for any plantation.
Am completely aware that this is a long process & that there are no shortcuts & am ready to invest the time required & wait with patience.


Why not turn the problem into the solution?

Research Chinampas on the net. Dig in your ground, use that soil to raise the level of your land and use the trenches to grow water crops and aqua plants for feeding plant eating fish.

You get free fish, free water crops from the water part of your land and the soil mounds (at least 3 ft. higher than water) grow all normal crops.

You can also use the fish manure enriched water to irrigate your crops. That is in addition to creating your own fish based mineral fertilizers, if you are so inclined.

Tried to edit the post but was unable…

Basics is ->  raise land for plants with soil from your own land and use the trench for things suitable for it. With some jcb work you can have islands of land for some crops and water for others. You may need boat to fetch your produce but you won’t ever mind dampness or even water coming in from outside.

Also, your deep-rooted plants will never need watering and shallow rooted ones like vegetables will get fish manure enriched one.

I created a diagram for vegetables for my own use…you can change things to suit your needs.

Dear Kumar,

As GP Rao sir suggests, you need to stop the seepage of water.

Consider digging trenches around your land to accumulate the water seepage and probably you can collect this water and store in a farmpond. This way soil dampness could be brought under control and you can harvest water for future use by storing.

Also, when you say soil is hard, do you mean clayey or with boulders? If there are rocks you need to take them off.

Considering the time and resources consumed, why not consider soil less hydrophonic grow mediums like coco peat etc as an alternate. Ofcourse if it is viable in the long run only.

Hope this helps!



Go for tiling of the land at least once so as to make the land soft.

(option 1) Create a trench in between the land and the lake and divert the water to a pond in a different area of the land.  Once the pond gets filled up, an exit option for the water needed to be created.
(option 2) Alternatively, you can create a pond in your land next to the lake.  Use the water in the pond on a daily basis to ensure the seepage does not move further into your land.  You can also grow fishes in them, if possible.

Note: You can use Clay as a liner for all the walls of the pond to reduce further seepage.

Dear Kumar sir, If we want the crop to come upto our satisfaction, the hardened soil must be loosened , as detailed below.      1. Instead of ploughing , digging the soil with jcb to a depth of 2 ft and /or, 2.adding organic materials like FYM,  adding Paddy husk and /or Ground nut shell to soil, adding more vermicompost ,etc can reduce hardness of soil depending on the crop. Pl noe that,  expenditure should be limited ,as per the crop and its profitability.                                          Dear sir, to reduce your confusion, pl inform us that for which specific crop you want suggestions, we can advice the same. Pl be specific.  Ultimately our farmers should get profits.                    with regards,  g.p.rao, farmer

C:N ratio of rice husk is 1:115. Is it advisable to add it soil?

Dear Sri sir, in general after digging the soil with jcb , we add rice husk and GN shell to the  beds,as the soil will become loose and at the same time the soil will become porus. In this case of sri Kumars land it is wrong as the land is with water logging. On seeing your comment, I spoke to concerned professor of GKVK,bengaluru and found that it is wrong to add rice husk and/or GN shell to kumars land. Further you are wright . g.p.rao,farmer

Thank you GP Rao Garu,

Keeping of Land for longer period generally the Soil becomes Fertile with  Organic Matter of Weed,Tree Leaves  etc. If digging the soil with Jcb the Fertile soil will go to depth and moreover it is an expensive. Instead of this it is better to Plough (Not Cultivator, Plough is having only Two Big Cultivars) the Land using the Tractor after raining if the Land is though. After that it be  cultivate with Rotavator or again with Cultivator if the Land is again though.Any way finally  it is better to cultivate with Rotavator to have the Land levelled and the weeding material thoroughly mixed in the Land. 
This is my experience and Opinion taking into consideration of the Lands near Hyderabad.

Dear Sri Manne SN, Vasudha Farms, thanks for your opinion sir.      From past two and half decades, when ever I purchase lands, i will dig the soil with jcbs to a depth of 1.5 ft to 2 ft. why because, when we plough our land with manual or with tractor, it hardly goes to a depth of 6 to 7 inches. Because of inorganic fertilisers, the left over fertilisers will be changed to unavailable farm to the plants after some considerable time ,and they will be in concrete/clotted condition.                To loosen the soil, I am following digging of soil with jcbs so that, the clotted farms of fertiliser and soil, will get loosened and gives good results and found lot of development in quality of production and quantity of production too.    Let us discuss about a basic point about nature. It is a fact that nature knows what to do and when to do and how to do. Any plant is a part of nature. So plant knows how to penetrate its root zone, even the soil is in clotted condition. But it has to spend lot of its energies to penetrate in to the clotted soil as it is difficult. Energies to the plant comes from partly with photosynthesis and rest from supplied fertilisers and atmosphere.Since the plant spends much of its energies towards root zone developments, it can not spend sufficient energies towards other developments like branching,flowerings,fruitings and becomes weak and helpless.                  You please observe that Tomato and capsicum growing in open will have a rootzone upto a depth of 2 ft where as if you grow the same plants in soil less/Hydroponic way of culture, the rootzone will not even cross few inches because we do spoon feeding to the pots/covers/troughs. Any how sir, if you feel or come to a conclusion that digging  once in atleast 10 years is good,please follow. This is only my observations in past so many years of farming and i want to share my experiences with our forum. Please tell me that in what way digging is wrong,so that we take an alternative decision        Now I want to tell you one more thing, you please come and see my land,it is digged and now in next week,I will be sowing sunhemp in my land and after 40 to 45 days I will plough and plant chrysanthemum plants.You pl visit now,after 45 days and again after 3 months.If you feel that good growth,good yield is in my field, you can implement the same system.All the best to you sir. yours friend, g.p.rao, farmer

Thank you Sir for your Suggestion!

Thanks to the valuable suggestions by our members especially Rao ji, Saravanakumar, Manne SN of Vasudha Farms. My knowledge and experience is limited but would like to suggest the following. A small pond with clay lining or plastic sheet lining may be digged to use the water seepage from the lake. Trenches may be digged around the borders to drain water at will. Deep plowing twice may result in incorporation of organic materials into the land and loosening the soil. Growing multi species plants as suggested in Dabholkar method may be adopted to enrich the soil naturally.
Permaculture like growing of different plants and trees may be adopted. The high trees on the borders may provide the required shade and also act as wind breakers. This is particularly useful during hot summer.
All the best.

Hello Sir,
              I understand from your post that you are facing the problem of water logging due to seepage of water from near by lake. Today most of the countries are effectively working on Sub Surface Drainage (SSD) systems to fight the problem of water logging and soil salinity by laying perforated drainage pipes in trenches at a gradient to drain out all excess water back to the source or to a near by drain or ditch.
      The  SSD project is carried out by using Trenching machines or Plowing Machines depending on the type of land. If this issue of water logging is also being faced by farmers around your area or if your area falls under a region where water logging is severe then you should talk to your elected representative or village sarpanch to raise the matter in front of higher officials or you yourself bring up the topic in front of the administrative officers.
      We ourselves in our company have carried out such projects with different governments and have been really successful. SSD increases the crop yield as well as benefits the land for decades.

Good Luck…!! 

Dear Kumar,
I have just read the entire thread and wish to know the latest position.  Have you  got hold of the land and decided on something?
  I am also a fresher and yet to start something.
  Since you are interested in Natural farming, I suggest you to meet somebody  who is into natural farming or a follower of Subash Palekar’s ZBNF and take advice.  You may even plan to meet Palekar ji personally or attend his training program.  I will write further after your reply.  Regards and all d best.  BVR Kumar.

Rao Saab

You are really an inspiration. Real knowledge is in short supply, though not rare. What is rare, is having real knowledge AND an open mind, willing to concede to a new piece of information, if found true. You are that rare combination!!

I have been researching no-dig vs dig. What I came across that a single thorough plouging causes loss of carbon & nitrogen in gaseous form to the atmosphere. And loss is severe enough in at least non-tropical regions that accumulation of 5-7 years is lost.

That said, I agree with you that still the ground should be ploughed with tractors or jcb once initially, if the farmer is looking to build soil life through green manuring, plowing live manure crops initially into the soil, plus introducing bacterial & fungal life into soil to start the rebuilding process. Methods may vary but all work to a lesser or higher extent.

A plowed land with soil life rebuilding processes would recover much faster to the starting point or greater, than undug soil not seeded with soil life.

However, if one is looking to chemicals based farming, then its moot point anyways.

This is known material with ample data available on the net.