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Regional dialogue on conservation agriculture on South Asia: proceedings and recommendations

Author: Jat, M.L.
Author: Malik, R.K.
Author: Saharawat, Y.S.
Author: Gupta, R.
Author: Mal, B.
Author: Paroda, R.
Year: 2011
Abstract: South Asia accounts for less than 2% of the world’s total land area and 14 % of the global agricultural land. However, about 94% of the agriculturally suitable area is already under cultivation with almost no scope for further horizontal expansion of agriculture. There has been a tremendous shift in the production variables of modern farming over traditional farming. Even then, most of the agronomic works revolved around tillage and labour intensive farming. Declining soil organic carbon (SOC) status of soils has been the main shift in agriculture from ‘traditional animal based subsistence’ to ‘intensive chemical and tractor based’ agriculture that multiplied problems associated with sustainability of natural resources. The SOC concentration in most cultivated soils of South Asia is less than 5 g/kg compared with 15-20 g/kg in uncultivated virgin soils, attributed to intensive tillage, removal/burning of crop residue and mining of soil fertility. Large acreage of cultivated lands shows fertility fatigue and multiple nutrients deficiency in many intensively cropped areas. This adds to our challenge of making farming more profitable and sustainable. Hence, the current and future food security of South Asian countries has twin challenges of resource fatigue and decelerating productivity growth of food grain crops. These challenges are being further exacerbated with the sharp rise in the cost of food and energy, depleting water resources, vulnerability of soil to degradation, indiscriminate and imbalanced use of external production inputs and overarching effects of changing climate. This has and will further lead to lower farm profit, making farming unattractive and unsustainable. The efficiency and sustainability of a production system depends on system-based management optimization of crop yields, economic benefits, and environmental impacts. Therefore, vertical improvement through development and deployment of tools and techniques aiming at increasing agricultural production and arresting degradation of soil, water and environment and their rational use are essential to satisfy future food demand in the region and to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To bring a paradigm shift in agriculture, National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), the FAO of the United Nations and CGIAR Centers have accepted conservation agriculture (CA) as a vehicle for change. No-till agriculture together with other associated management practices such as direct seeding into loose crop residues to provide soil cover and to conserve soil moisture, judicious choice of crop rotations and agroforestry tree species constitutes conservation agriculture (CA). CA based crop management practices have proved to be effective to produce more at less costs, reduce environmental pollution, promote conjunctive use of organics (avoids residue burning), improve soil health and promote timeliness of planting and other farm operations to address issues relating to terminal heat stress in the region. Like any other tillage and crop establishment technology, it may not be a panacea for all present day ills, but has proven to bring out south American Agriculture out of its stagnant state almost 20 years ago, skyrocketing the cereals and oilseed production system. Same is the case for regional CA networks in different continents/sub-continents. CA is being widely accepted as an important component of the overall strategy for enhancing productivity, improving the environment and conserving natural resources for food security and alleviating poverty in such areas. Thus, for addressing the issues of resource fatigue and bridging management yield gaps, in South Asia, Conservation agriculture based management solutions can prove to be the cornerstone. In South Asia, no-till systems were introduced during mid 1990s by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in close collaboration with regional NARES primarily to grow wheat in ricewheat system. The CA program was later facilitated by the strong presence of Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC) for the Indo-Gangetic Plains led by the regional NARS and convened by CIMMYT. It led to a steady rise in the acreage of CA based resource conserving technologies in India, Pakistan, and Nepal and to some extent in Bangladesh. RWC reported a total coverage of nearly 3 m ha under CA based resource conserving technologies in South Asia by 2007 benefiting hundreds of thousand farmers directly to the extent of nearly US$ 150 million. This has been possible through regional learnings and information sharing for development of light weight, low cost multi-crop ferti-seed planters through building capacity of local manufacturers. However, in the past few years, there has been a slowdown in the adoption of zero-till systems in the region. This has been due to several reasons including blanket and commodity crop based recommendations, farmers’ access to location specific and timely information and policy mismatches in prioritization of investments but the most important one is the lack of common platform for regional learnings and information sharing. It is fairly well understand that dissemination or extension of new technologies in general and CA in particular is a complex issue. Very often than not the scientists, having developed and tested the technologies, are not able to transfer these to the farmers widely. Why farmer is not ready to adopt the new technologies is an issue that haunts the planners and scientists alike. Farmers today need value chain information (production, protection, inputs and services) on region-specific technologies. These region specific technologies and innovations are in advanced stages of experimentation in farmers’ fields. However, the lack of a regional common platform for sharing this information and capacity building are the major deterrent in accelerating the pace of adoption of CA in South Asia. Therefore, the agricultural science, extension and development leaders, key researchers of South Asian National Agricultural Research and Extension System (NARES), CGIAR Centers in the region, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), innovators, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and farmer associations met on 1-2 November, 2011 at New Delhi, India for a dialogue on ‘Conservation Agriculture in South Asia’. The dialogue focused on Conservation Agricultural Research for Development (CAR4D) through innovations for greater impacts on smallholder farmers in the region was organized jointly by Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The dialogue was structured in four sessions: i) status of conservation agriculture in the region, ii) initiatives of CG Centers on CA in South Asia, iii) focused discussion through break-out groups on (a) out-scaling for impact, (b) partnerships for regional cooperation, (c) capacity building, and (iv) research and development needs on CA in South Asia. The status reports of different countries were presented by the respective RW coordinators of regional NARS and the progress of CA initiatives by the key CG Centers in the region (CIMMYT, IRRI, IFPRI, ILRI, ICRISAT) as well as other international programs in Central Asia were presented by the respective lead scientists of these organizations. All presentations were followed by in-depth discussions. This report provides the outcomes of deliberations and key recommendations for implementation by the scientific community and policy planners.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: CIMMYT
Publisher: APAARI
Publisher: ICAR
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Conference Proceedings
Place of Publication: India
Pages: ix, 34 pages
Conference Name: Regional dialogue on conservation agriculture
Conference Place: (Pusa, New Delhi :
Conference Date: 1-2 November, 2011).
Agrovoc: MAIZE
Agrovoc: WHEAT

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  • Sustainable Intensification
    Sustainable intensification agriculture including topics on cropping systems, agronomy, soil, mechanization, precision agriculture, etc.

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