Farmer weeding maize field in Bihar, India. Photo: CIMMYT/M. DeFreese
EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) — In northwestern India, growing maize is being advocated as an alternative to rice to address resource degradation challenges such as declining water tables and climate change induced variability in rainfall and temperature.
Sustainable agriculture practices have proven to increase farmer income, improve irrigation productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cereal systems of the Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP), a fertile area extending over 2.5 million square kilometers across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
The IGP currently abstracts 25 percent of global groundwater withdrawals, sustaining agricultural productivity across the region. However, aquifers are being depleted at rates faster than they can recharge, threatening food security for more than 500 million people.
ZT and PB practices reduced irrigation water requirement by up to 65 and 98 hectares per millimeter, respectively, compared to conventional tillage systems, resulting in a water productivity boost of nearly 20 percent. Net profit from maize-based systems under ZT was over 30 percent higher than conventional systems.
The study concludes that by adopting sustainable practices like ZT and PB, farmers can sustainably increase productivity throughout the IGP region.
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