Conservation agriculture advances in West Asia

August 15, 2010 at 6:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Conservation agriculture is generating massive farmer interest. A field day Qamishly, Syria, attracted more than 250 farmers – as well as 20 extension officers from Iraq

Research partners in Syria and Iraq report that farmers in both countries are increasingly adopting conservation agriculture methods, thanks to a collaborative project with ICARDA, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and others. A meeting at ICARDA headquarters on 5 August brought together 80 participants from diverse fields: government research and extension staff, farmers, education and development experts, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, NGOs, agrochemical industry representatives, and others. The meeting reviewed results from the project’s first season in Syria and developed workplans for the next season.

To encourage farmers to practice conservation agriculture, zero-till seeders supplied by the project were made available – on loan, free of cost – at seven locations in Syria. In the 2009-10 season, the seeders were used by 160 farmers to plant some 6600 ha of wheat, barley and lentil. Zero-till fields gave higher yields than neighboring fields sown by conventional methods; while production costs were $20-30/ha lower.

The program will be further scaled up next season in both Syria and Iraq. In Syria, additional zero-till seeders will be available through the project, and 15 farmers are purchasing their own seeders: designed by a project team and fabricated locally, at low cost. In Iraq, the project has supplied seven seeders from Syria, and a further 20 farmers are modifying their own local seeders for zero-till. Iraqi participants at the meeting shared their experiences on conservation agriculture; they noted that lessons learned in Syria would benefit similar activities planned for Ninevah province in Iraq. Senior government officials – Dr Mohamed Abdalla, Director of Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, and Dr Avadis Arslan, Head of Natural Resources at the General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research – commended the project team, and expressed confidence that conservation agriculture would continue to expand rapidly.

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