The International Conservation Agriculture Forum, held at the Ningxia Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences in Yinchuan during 27-31 May, was attended by a significant number of provincial government officials and private sector representatives who joined to discuss national and international partnerships in farming system intensification, mechanization, nutrient-use efficiency, precision agriculture, and training; gain better understanding of what conservation agriculture is; jointly identify needs, priorities, and constraints to broad adoption of conservation agriculture in China; and explore the Cropping Systems Intensification Project for North Asia (CSINA).
Key academic leaders from across China briefed the international participants, including Bruno Gerard, Ivan Ortiz-Monasterio, M.L. Jat, Scott Justice, Dan Jeffers, and Garry Rosewarne from CIMMYT, Wang Guanglin from ACIAR, and Rabi Raisaily, international liaison for Haofeng Machinery. Some key constraints to adoption of conservation agriculture were covered, including the lack of financial, political, and personal incentives; inadequate or unavailable zero-till machinery; inflexible irrigation-water distribution and fixed pricing; narrow approach to research, development, and engineering without linkages to the larger issues of farming and cropping systems; and limited knowledge of rural socioeconomic conditions. Consequently, the participants defined future priorities: a socioeconomic study covering labor, gender, impacts of previous projects, and adoption issues; and mechanization development and plant residue trade-offs and handling, especially of rice/wheat systems.
One of the most important outcomes of the forum was the establishment of new relationships with the China Agricultural University, Nanjing Agricultural University, Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University, and others. Similarly, invigorating of old partnerships with the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Gansu Academy of Agricultural Sciences is expected to be highly beneficial for future research platform development.
As partnerships with machinery manufacturers are often crucial in driving the uptake of conservation agriculture by creating a push demand for conservation agriculture machinery, the presence of private sector representatives, including the Henan Haofeng Machinery Manufacturing Company (Henan province), Qingdao Peanut Machinery Company (Shandong province), Jingxin Agricultural Machinery (Sichuan province), and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), was crucial. The importance of such partnerships has been proven before; for example, the research and development activities of the Qingdao Peanut Machinery Company have seen a considerable advancement of the Chinese Turbo Happy Seeder, which has been downsized through a number of iterations to suit tractors with less than 30 hp. Thanks to this public-private interaction, the forum participants learned about preliminary discussions to prototype the two-wheel tractor Happy Seeder specifically for Africa and joint CIMMYT/ACIAR projects. “We are hopeful that one of the companies present at the forum will take up this opportunity to create demand for conservation agriculture machinery for the small landholder,” said CIMMYT senior cropping systems scientist Allen McHugh.
The forum, jointly organized by the Ningxia Provincial Government Foreign Experts Bureau, Ningxia Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, and CIMMYT, was regarded very successful, as it has advanced CIMMYT’s stakes in future funding requests. “Overall, we have had a very good start toward the development of integrated research platforms in three distinct agro-ecological zones. The next step is to consolidate the outcomes from the forum and commence the iterative process of project development,” McHugh added, summarizing the results of the event.