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Annual course on conservation agriculture held in South Asia

December 30, 2016
Field demonstration and training on CA machinery. Photo: CIMMYT

Field demonstration and training on CA machinery. Photo: CIMMYT

LUDHIANA, India (CIMMYT) – As climate change continues to challenge food systems globally, sustainable agriculture offers a viable solution to help mitigate the effects of and help farmers adapt to drought, heat and other climate change effects.

However, a gap in availability and access to sustainable technology and practices prevent many farmers from adopting sustainable agriculture.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has been organizing an annual Advanced Course on Conservation Agriculture for seven years to meet this gap. The two week course was held in November, 2016 with 25 participants from Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India. The course builds on CIMMYT’s capacity development and training activities of students, partners and staff.

CIMMYT along with the rest of the CGIAR System Organization and partner organizations hold courses like the advanced course on conservation agriculture (CA) to ensure better preparation for future food security challenges by making sure the farmers and researchers are trained in the latest sustainable technology and practices in agriculture. CA practices like minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and the use of crop rotation can simultaneously maintain and boost yields, increase profits and protect the environment. It contributes to improves soil function and quality, which can improve resilience to climate variability.

CA course attendees. Photo: CIMMYT

CA course attendees. Photo: CIMMYT

AK Joshi, CIMMYT country representative in India, welcomed participants and dignitaries while ML Jat, principal scientist at CIMMYT and course coordinator, presented an overview of the course’s seven year history. The course has so far benefited 135 participants from nine countries, covering different CA practices, plant physiology, agricultural economics and more. HS Sidhu, senior research engineer at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) and course co-coordinator, conveyed thanked everyone for attending.

CIMMYT Director General Martin Kropff also recognized key partners in the course for their contribution and collaboration in helping young agricultural researchers across Asia adopt CA and other sustainable practices in their work. Kropff emphasized challenges like climate change make it more difficult than ever before to feed the world. Since the 1950s-70s, rising population, climate change effects like drought and dwindling natural resources have caused South Asia’s natural resources to be some of the most stressed in the world. New diseases like wheat blast in Bangladesh are also taking a toll on crop productivity, posing a potential risk to India and other neighboring nations as well.

Hands-on training on calibration.  Photo: CIMMYT

Hands-on training on calibration. Photo: CIMMYT

During the course, participants were taught how to use machines and equipment in the field. Sessions on CA practices like precision land levelling, soil nutrient management and other sustainable tools and methods were also held. A brainstorming workshop was held on converging liquid fertilizer and fertigation, CA practices that help increase nutrient use efficiency by mixing fertilizers with water under micro-irrigation, greatly benefiting smallholder farmer systems across South Asia. The workshop was jointly held with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, The Fertiliser Association of India, BISA and the CGIAR Research Program on WHEAT covering topics like farming system typology, business models, crop modelling and  how to use unmanned aerial vehicles to more efficiently apply fertilizer.

Participants also visited farmer cooperatives and climate smart villages – areas that will likely suffer most from a changing climate that have been selected to try new sustainable agricultural practices and tools – in order to get hands on experience in how CA is applied directly in the field. They also visited Karnal in Haryana, India to learn about various CA projects conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

At the end of the course, participants said they intend to build on their new CA skills and construct networks to scale CA in their respective regions. The closing of the advanced course successfully marks seven years of bringing prominent researchers together to share their expertise and experiences with the next generation of CA researchers to ensure our future food security goals are sustainably met.