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Traveling seminar on conservation agriculture in Central Bihar, India

The Central Bihar Hub for Conservation Agriculture (CA), the Cereal System Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), and Rajendra Agriculture University (RAU) organized a traveling seminar for farmers on 2-3 October 2009 in Bihar, India. The seminar, whose theme was the application of CA technologies to rice/wheat and rice/maize systems, began at the Regional Maize Research and Seed Production Center in Begusarai, continued in farmers’ fields at Bachwara (Samastipur) and Krishnawara (Vaishali), and ended at RAU in Pusa, Samastipur. Scientific and technical guidance was provided by Dr. S. Chowdhury, CIMMYT-India; Dr. M. Kumar, RAU agronomist; Dr. M.L. Chaudhari, Vice-Chancellor, RAU; Dr. I.S. Solanki, Head, IARIRS, Pusa; and Mr. Ravi Gopal, Hub Manager, CSISA.

Participating farmers from 10 districts of central Bihar viewed trials in farmers’ fields and listened to local farmers talk about their experiences with new technologies, such as zero-till for rice-wheat, that have increased their yields and reduced their production costs. A technology that particularly caught their eye was the double no-till rice-wheat and rice-maize system with residue retention, outstanding due to its intense biological activity, good crop growth, and fertile soil conditions. Farmers asked questions about specific subjects such as weed management in rice, the effect of residues for conserving moisture (of particular interest in this dry year), and nutrient management strategies.

On the second day, participants gathered for a technical meeting at RAU Pusa to discuss issues related to the adoption of CA technologies. Among other subjects, results of long-term rice-wheat and rice-maize trials and of farmer participatory research were presented, and strategies for reducing production costs and increasing farm productivity were discussed. Vice-Chancellor Chaudhari explained that RAU is strengthening its seed production and technology transfer capabilities for the benefit of farmers. Of particular use to farmers was the opportunity to present their views, success stories, and experiences with CA technologies, aswell as to voice problems relating to crop production, productivity, and marketing. Potential solutions (growing pulses to diversify the cropping systems; green manuring to help restore soil fertility and micronutrient availability) were suggested by attending scientists and technical staff.