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Advanced course on conservation agriculture: Gateway for sustainable intensification of smallholder systems

December 18, 2017
Field training at the “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture." Photo: BISA/Singh, L.K.

Field training at the “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture.” Photo: BISA/Singh, L.K.

NEW DELHI, India (CIMMYT) – On October 23, the eighth edition of the “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture (CA)” commenced in Ludhiana and Karnal, India. The course lasted fifteen days and covered topics from practical training on calibration and operation of scale appropriate CA machinery, to modeling systems, climate change mitigation, on-field smallholder precision water and nutrient management approaches and quality seed production and breeding.

ML Jat, Principal Scientist, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and coordinator of the training course, presented the overview of the course series, which began in 2010, and highlighted the successes of the series.

BS Dhillon, Vice Chancellor, PAU, in his kind remarks as the chief guest stated “there is need for more collaborative research with students from PAU working on CA and organizing traveling seminars for the researchers for higher learning.” PC Shrama, Director, Central Soil and Salinity research institute (CSSRI-ICAR), highlighted the ICAR-CIMMYT collaborative work done in past 9 years for CA and achieving incredible results.

The CA approach has been shown to improve yields, reduce costs to farmers and preserve natural resources. This approach supports the goals of sustainable intensification (SI), or systems that allow farmers to produce more output from the same area of land while reducing the negative environmental impacts. SI is proposed as a way to produce enough food for a growing population without causing further environmental damage.

This push toward both food security and a healthier environment drives innovations in CA. To ensure holistic development there needs to be strong collaboration between farmers, extension agents and researchers, as well as multi-level training programs for development, adaptation and scaling of new technologies. Hands-on capacity development is vital for the dissemination of research interventions for scaling CA and this course offers multi-faceted, site-specific solutions.

Group photo at the “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture.” Photo: BISA/Singh, L.K.

Group photo at the “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture.” Photo: BISA/Singh, L.K.

Since 2010, when the first “Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture” was held, 149 researchers from 9 countries have gone through the training. This course series has gone beyond disciplinary boundaries with contents originating from a range of disciplines as well as from agri-business and extension experts. Complementing this series, there have been 16 other large-scale national and international courses organized for scaling CA.

Many governments are keen on the implementation of CA based SI techniques and several agricultural universities have signed letters of intent with CIMMYT to implement training programs for students.

Information from past courses helps disseminate an enhanced understanding of CA, new tools and techniques as well as agro-ecologies. Participants committed to synthesize and apply the information gained through their training to plan and manage long-term basic and strategic research trials, build knowledge networks, and expand opportunities for targeting and scaling of CA.

S.S. Pourdad, deputy of Iran’s Dryland Agricultural Research Institute and oilseed crop breeder, stated “the ‘Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture’ was a complete and enhanced course that considered a wide range of subjects in CA and introduced trainees to crop intensification and relaying cropping systems.”

Bruno Gerard, program director of the Sustainable Intensification Program at CIMMYT, said “the course addresses the imperative need of nurturing a new approach in the working environment towards implementing farmer and environment- friendly technologies including CA based SI and climate-smart agriculture making a sustainable impact at scale.”

 

This course was jointly organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Borlaug Institute of South Asia (BISA) under the CGIAR Research Programs on Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS), MAIZE and WHEAT, with support from the Indian National Agricultural Research System (NARS), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).


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