Land preparation is important to ensure that the rice field is ready for planting. A well-prepared field controls weeds, recycles plant nutrients, and provides a soft soil mass for transplanting and a suitable soil surface for direct seeding.
Land preparation covers a wide range of practices from zero-tillage or minimum tillage which minimizes soil disturbance through to a totally 'puddled' soil which actually destroys soil structure.
It typically involves (1) plowing to "till" or dig-up, mix, and overturn the soil; (2) harrowing to break the soil clods into smaller mass and incorporate plant residue, and (3) leveling the field.
Initial land preparation begins after your last harvest or during fallow period. This is important for effective weed control and for enriching the soil. Generally, it will take 3−4 weeks to prepare the field before planting.
Implements: Power tiller with attached moldboard plow, Hydrotiller, Rotovator
Depending on weed population and soil condition, another tillage operation can be done.
Composting converts crop residues into better organic fertilizers. To create a compost:
Growing cover crops help suppress weeds and enrich the soil.
Crops that can be planted after harvest include nitrogen fixing crops like Sesbania, Azolla, and other legumes such as mung bean and cow pea.
Different rice ecosystems have different land preparation requirements. Lowland rice fields, for example, are usually puddled to develop a hard pan and reduce water loss. Upland ricefields, on the other hand, do not necessarily have to be puddled. In resource-limiting environments, dry preparation can be adapted.