Promoting conservation agriculture in India

August 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Higher yields, lower costs: Indian grasspea producers
are increasingly switching to conservation agriculture

ICARDA scientists are working with research centers in India to help improve the production of pulse crops – the country’s main source of dietary protein. One component of this research, funded by the National Food Security Mission, is introducing conservation agriculture techniques for lentil and grasspea in five states: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The ICARDA team is led by Dr Ashutosh Sarker, Coordinator, South Asia and China Regional Program.

Field demonstrations, farmer-participatory trials and training programs have helped test and promote zero-tillage planting as well as relay cropping, where lentil or grasspea are direct-seeded (without tillage) into the standing rice crop. Both approaches increase yields while substantially reducing production costs, and thus increasing profits. The latter approach, in addition, enables farmers to cultivate an extra crop during the normally fallow post-rice season.

Farmers were trained on optimal planting time, seed rate, weed and pest/disease control and other improved technologies. In two seasons of trials, compared to traditional methods, zero-tillage gave 37-42% higher yields (up to 1.7 t/ha). Relay cropping gave 51-60% higher yields (up to 1.44 t/ha). There are also other environmental and sustainability benefits such as increase in soil organic matter and better moisture conservation.

Farmers in India are keen to adopt conservation agriculture because it is highly profitable. For small-scale farmers, the lower production costs are particularly important. There is considerable potential to scale out these technologies to neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal, where, as in India, legume crops are vital for food and nutritional security.

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