From 27 September to 4 October, scientists from India’s national agricultural research systems attended the “Conservation Agriculture: Developing Resilient Systems” training program at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI) in Karnal, India. Participants learned about crop management technologies based on conservation agriculture (CA) and acquired skills to plan strategic CA research trials.
The training program was organized by CIMMYT’s Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and CSSRI. Eighteen researchers from the Division of Natural Resource Management, International Rice Research Institute and CIMMYT attended the course.
Opening the course, ICAR Assistant Director General (Seeds) Dr. J.S. Chauhan, highlighted the importanc eof CA training for improving the productivity of crops and cropping systems in different agro-ecological regions of India. Conservation agriculture can sustain the livelihood of smallholders while maintaining and improving the quality of the environment and natural resources. CSSRI Director Dr. D.K. Sharma explained that CA has the ability to slow the depletion of underground water, declining soil fertility associated with multiple nutrient deficiencies, pest outbreaks and increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. He also focused on how to design diversified and resilient cropping systems that use resources more efficiently, as an alternative to intensive rice-wheat systems.
Globally, the positive impact of CA-based techniques on natural resources, adaptation and mitigation of climate change effects has been widely acknowledged. In India, strategic research on CA such as precise nutrient application, water, cultivars and weed management has been initiated. However, CA still remains a relatively new concept in the country. Andrew McDonald, CSISA project leader, talked about how continuous cultivation of rice-wheat cropping systems for almost five decades in the Indo-Gangetic Plains has caused the degradation of natural resources such as water and soil, thus affecting climate and biodiversity. He said, “This training program offers a unique opportunity for members of the country’s scientific community who are working in the area of natural resource management to help address the issues of water, labor and energy through the use of advanced crop production technologies.”
The training covered basic principles of CA, included field exercises and modern CA techniques for efficient climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, impact assessment of CA technologies and sustainable management of natural resources to ensure food security, profitability and productivity. Participants were given hands-on training on the use of different technologies including the laser land leveler, turbo seeder, multi-crop planter, limit plot planter, bed planter and mechanical transplanter. They also learned how to measure greenhouse gas emissions.
Attendees also participated in strategic research trials at Kulvehri and Taraori in Karnal. H.S. Sidhu, farm development engineer of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) and M.L. Jat, CIMMYT Senior cropping system agronomist, talked about the longterm strategic research trial on CA for intensive cereal systems, shared their experiences and outcomes related to BISA research and commented on the development work at Ladhowal, Ludhiana. Jat also spoke about using conservation agriculture and climate-smart agriculture, to achieve food sufficiency by 2050 through input-based management systems in diverse production systems and environments.