Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zamindara Farmsolutions Hosts Regional Training Course on Conservation Agriculture: For Sustainable agriculture in South Asia.

30th November 2010

There has been a tremendous shift in the production variables of modern farming over traditional plow based farming and even then, the most farming revolved around tillage and labor intensive farming. Declining soil organic carbon (SOC) status of soils has been 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 India is less than 5 g/kg compared with 15 to 20 g/kg in uncultivated virgin soils. More specifically, due to intensive ploughing, residue burning/removal and mining of soil fertility has resulted in loss of C from SOC pool and hence C based sustainability index in Punjab has declined substantially after Green Revolution. Large acreage of cultivated lands shows fertility fatigue and deficiency of micro-nutrients in many intensively cropped areas. This adds to our challenge of making farming more profitable.

Therefore, for food and livelihood security, agricultural think tanks and United Nations (UN) have prioritized four  major areas i.e. natural resources, climate change, water and food. In this respect,. CA therefore, will be able to quickly address two critical needs that address concerns faced by South Asian agriculture today- farm economics and natural resources.

Several studies conducted across the production systems under varied ecologies of South Asia revealed potential benefits of CA based Resource Conserving Technologies (RCTs) on resource conservation, use efficiency of external inputs, yield enhancement and adaptation to climate change effects. Laser assisted land levelling being practiced over 1.5 m ha in south Asia saves on water by 25-30 %, improve yields by 5-15 % with other associated benefits. Zero tillage in cereal systems have helped in saving in fuel, water, reduce cost of production, improve system productivity and soil health. Residue management in zero till systems (surface retention) helps in improving soil health reducing GHG emission equivalent nearly 13 tonnes/ha and also regulates canopy temperature at grain filling stage to mitigate the terminal heat effects in wheat.

CA practices have been widely adopted in tropics/subtropical and temperate regions of the world for rain-fed and irrigated systems. Acreage of Conservation Agriculture is increasing steadily worldwide to cover about 108 m ha globally (7% of the world arable land area). Thus, CA is an innovation process of developing appropriate CA implements, crop cultivars, etc. for iterative guidance and fine-tuning to modify crop production technologies. Recent estimates revealed that CA based RCTs are being practiced over nearly 3.9 mha of South Asia.

Keeping the emerging challenges before the South Asian farmers, there is a need for a collective movement on Conservation Agriculture in the region. For accelerating the pace of adoption of CA in the region, Human Resource Development in core competence of CA is an immediate action. In this regard, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project funded by Bill & Millinda Gates Foundation and USAID and managed by International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have organized a 2 week regional training course on "Conservation Agriculture: Nurturing Sustainable Production Systems in South Asia" in collaboration with PAU Ludhiana.  Twenty (20) participants from 4 countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Uzbekistan) from different Federal Govt Institutions, State Agricultural Universities, KVKs, State departments, NGOs, as well as International Institutions are participating in this training. This is the first regional training course on Conservation Agriculture in South Asia and important for developing the capacity of more number of NARS partners in the region. The participants are being exposed to steps in implementation of key elements of Conservation Agriculture and local adjustments in different component technologies. The course in mainly designed for field oriented training where in participants will be learning by doing. This training is being Co-ordinated by Dr M.L. Jat, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist, CIMMYT & Assistant Delivery Coordinator, CSISA. The participants are accompanied by Dr H.S. Sidhu, CSISA Coordinator, Punjab, Dr Ken Sayre, CA Consultant, CIMMYT.

As for large scale dissemination and adoption of new technologies, Service centres and Service providers plays key role. One of the best examples for such services is Zamindara Farm Solutions, Fazilka acting a model service provider for CA technologies and also the key partner in CSISA. Therefore the participants are visiting ZFS, Fazilka to understand the model and also interact with Mr Vikram Ahuja, the Director of the ZFS to propagate such models in their respective Countries and States.

A new Cell phone based SMS module for disseminating right messages on new technologies as per the need of the farmers developed by CIMMYT will also be demonstrated to the participants in collaboration with ZFS.

 Note- Biggest problem in the Indian System of Agriculture is Lack of Extension Services. Successive governments have failed to ensure Lab to Land activity i.e. technologies and techniques developed by scientists/universities do not reach the farmers. Hence end up in the labs only. Zamindara Farmsolutions is trying to fill up this gap by offering extension services to the farmers through village level meetings, video conferences with the expert's and one to one interaction with the farmers. Recent trainings sessions where 2500 farmers were trained on Straw management (60 village level training sessions), is a successful example of private extension service model.  

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