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Conservation agriculture conference for Central Asia

Kazhakstan1CIMMYT staff in Kazakhstan organized an international conference on conservation agriculture (CA) 08-10 July 2009 in northern Kazakhstan at the Institute for Grain Farming. The conference, “No-till with soil cover and crop rotation: A basis for policy support to conservation agriculture for sustainable production intensification,” was financed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), CIMMYT, and the International Collaboration for Agricultural Research in Central Asia and the Caucuses (ICAR) project, which is managed by Washington State University. There were 150 participants including scientists from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan along with 70 farmers from Kazakhstan and Russia. Dr. Akylbek Kurishbayev, Kazakhstan’s minister of agriculture and an old friend of CIMMYT, opened the conference and stressed that the government of Kazakhstan is firmly committed to supporting the spread of CA; it already gives a higher subsidy to small farmers who use CA than it does to those who use conventional tillage.

“There was a lot of discussion on the definition of CA, not only because of some confusion with conservation tillage—the common tillage method for wheat in northern Kazakhstan—but also because of the problem of expressing the term in other languages, including Russian,” said Pat Wall, director of CIMMYT’s CA program. The papers presented at the conference, however, showed that CA is gaining in acceptance and application in Central Asia, both in dryland and irrigated situations, he said.

Kazhak2The conference highlighted the many problems still to be overcome for CA dissemination including the need for reorganization of many of the research and extension systems. Necessary diversification of cropping systems is often hampered by governmental policies and/or undeveloped markets. Weeds continue to be a problem and there is a lack of information on the adaptation of different crop varieties to CA, according to Wall.

Special thanks to CIMMYT staff in Kazakhstan who worked strenuously to make the conference a success: congratulations to Murat Karabayev, Arman Baitassov, Sagat Ishmuhanbetov, Mekhlis Suleimenov, Larissa Geronina, Zhumagali Ospanbayev, Tansara Murzatayeva, and Zina Telgarayeva.