Presentations and field demonstrations about the latest conservation agriculture practices landed on fruitful ground in Golestan Province, northern Iran, as part of a workshop involving 150 farmers, farm machinery manufacturers, agricultural extension officers, researchers and other experts during 10-11 December 2014.
Gaspardo planter adapted to local conditions.
Organized by the Golestan Jihad-Agricultural Organization and the Golestan Agricultural Research Center, the workshop was led by Ken Sayre, senior consultant for CIMMYT’s global conservation agriculture program, who worked through translators and responded to questions from highly-engaged farmers. The principles of conservation agriculture include reduced or zero tillage, retaining crop residues on the soil and targeted use of crop rotations.
“The many benefits of these practices include protecting the soil from erosion and saving farmers the fuel they would normally use for extensive tillage before sowing,” Sayre explained.
Adjacent to the Caspian Sea, part of the fertile region of ancient Hyrcania, and whose capital Gorgan was a stop on the Silk Road, Golestan Province comprises more than 22,000 square kilometers and is home to nearly 1.8 million people, almost half of whom live in rural areas that contain commercial forests, pastures and 630,000 hectares of arable land.
“The topography is extremely diverse, ranging from 27 meters below sea level to 3,750 meters above sea level, presenting conditions from humid-temperate to semi-arid and apt for cereals, cotton, oilseeds, and rice,” said M.E. Asadi, Water and Irrigation Scientist at the Golestan Agricultural Research Center and who helped organize the workshop. “Wheat and barley are grown on more than 300,000 hectares.”
Rainfall ranges from 200 to 700 millimeters annually. Unplowed fields that carry crop residues are better at capturing and holding moisture and can thus raise yields for crops like cotton, maize and soybean, according to Asadi. “Farmers also have only a short time in the fall to sow barley, canola and wheat, to take advantage of the Mediterranean seasonal rains,” he said. “If you reduce or eliminate tillage, farmers can plant sooner. And keeping crop residues on the soil protects it from erosion.”
Asadi said that conservation agriculture practices had been introduced to Golestan about 15 years ago. “But we’re now trying to promote them with the latest information and support from CIMMYT scientists like Sayre and M.L. Jat. Of particular interest right now are the potential fuel and energy savings from reduced tillage and the more effective use of water.”
Workshop participants included farmers, agricultural and extension experts, agricultural researchers, Golestan Province agricultural officers, Dr. Ken Sayre, Dr. Kamali (Principal scientist CIMMYT, Iran) and Dr. Asadi. Photos: Mr. Kamaraki/Organization of Agriculture Jihad.