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Conservation agriculture capacity building in Tamilnadu, India

The promotion of conservation agriculture (CA) in different agricultural systems of Tamilnadu, India, was the focus of a consultation organized with the Agriculture Commissioner, Sandeep Saxena, and officers of the State Department of Agriculture on 12 August at the Commisionerate of Agriculture, Chepauk, Chennai, Tamilnadu. Over 50 people attended, including Agricultural Officers from all 32 districts of Tamilnadu.

The issues facing the farmers of Tamilnadu – water, labor and energy shortages, soil health, climate change, farm profitability and food and livelihood security – were addressed in a presentation by ML Jat, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist, CIMMYT. He highlighted how the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), managed by CIMMYT and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in conjunction with national agricultural research and extension systems, is evaluating and disseminating CA-based crop management technologies, such as laser leveling, direct dry seeded rice, zero till mechanical transplanted rice, zero till maize, intercropping with raised bed technology and multi-crop planters, in the region. He also said that Tom Lumpkin, Director General, CIMMYT, and Robert Ziegler, Director General, IRRI, have both visited Tamilnadu to gain feedback from the farmers on the use of CA technologies, and found that they were being well received.

ML recommended that the Government of Tamilnadu prioritize investments on the CA technologies. Currently a significant investment is being made in 2-Wheel Tractors (2WT), but they are not fitted with the seeder attachments associated with CA methods. It was suggested that in order to maximize the government investments, the 2WTs and seeder attachments should be promoted together. The officers of the Department of Agriculture were particularly interested in the 2WT-based machinery, and Saxena pledged to include CA in future government investments and priorities, with proven and location-specific technologies being outlined for dissemination by the Department of Agriculture.

In order to increase understanding, capacity building and awareness among the officers and field staff of the state department of agriculture, it was suggested that the field trials of CA-based crop management technologies and machinery should be demonstrated in a block approach, to communicate the knowledge to a larger number of farmers. Innovative SMS technology (CIMMYT Agriplex) will also help in transmitting real time, location specific and needs-based information to the farmers. It is hoped that within one month, the Department of Agriculture  will formulate an action plan for these developments, before reporting back to the CIMMYT/CSISA team for further discussion and implementation of the proposed plans.