Thursday, June 25, 2015

Philippines: Conservation agriculture in South Asia highlighted at climate-smart agriculture workshop

The turbo happy seeder is a planter capable of directly drilling in the field while retaining surface residue and without any soil disturbance, thus,
following the principles of conservation agriculture. Photo from Parvinder Singh, CIMMYT. 

Experts have become concerned about the long-term sustainability of conventional tillage crop production systems. In the past decades, a variety of economic, environmental, and social problems have been plaguing these practices, including labor shortages, diminishing water and energy resources, deteriorating soil health, decreasing farm profitability, and other issues related to climate change.

Conservation agriculture (CA), on the other hand, can potentially address the challenges to the future of agriculture and food security. CA is a set of soil management practices that includes minimal soil disturbance, soil residue management, and crop diversification. These practices were presented during the regional workshop on climate-smart agriculture technologies in Asia on 2-4 June in Muntinlupa City.

Increased soil tillage or ploughing results in poor soil health or soil degradation. To keep soil disturbance to a minimum, zero-tillage technologies such as the laser leveller, turbo happy seeder, and zero-till relay planters, were developed and tested in selected sites in the Indo-Gangetic Plains in northern India.

Research on the energy dynamics of wheat production under different tillage techniques demonstrate that zero-tillage technologies have the highest energy-use efficiency and the lowest consumption of water and fuel. There is also evidence that zero- tillage technologies produce lower emission of greenhouse gases.

“To ensure that these zero-till technologies are farmer-friendly and will be disseminated easily, we tested these technologies through on-farm trials at the Bourlaug Institute for South Asia,” says Parvinder Singh, a research scientist from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. “They were also tested in farmer-participatory trials in selected climate-smart villages.”

The farm machinery needed for zero-tillage need not be costly, according to Dr. Singh who leads the research on climate-smart agricultural technologies such as zero-tillage with residue retention, relay planting, water- and nutrient-smart practices. Dr. Singh’s team worked with local manufacturers in developing affordable machines that will be readily available for market distribution once they have been tested. 

Philippines: Climate conference centers on “smart agriculture”

Workshop participants learned about various CSA technologies that are being practiced in Asia.

Multiple challenges beset the agriculture sector and extreme changes in the global climate aggravate the situation. Addressing these challenges in “climate-smart” ways to provide food for the ballooning population, which is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, was the impetus behind the Workshop on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Technologies.

“There is an unhappy marriage at the moment between agriculture and climate change; increasing temperature causes drastic negative impacts on crops around the globe,” explains Dr. Andy Jarvis, flagship leader of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). “Agriculture scientists need to support the drive towards CSA to mainstream productivity, adaptation, and mitigation into the next generation of our technology.”

In a nutshell, the CSA approach supports local and global efforts for sustainably using agricultural systems to achieve food and nutritional security for all people at all time. In this effort, local and national governments and communities should be treated as co-owners and partners in building and implementing CSA knowledge and technologies.

CSA is not just about technologies and practices but about crops, livestock and fish, in the landscape, food system, and support services. It anchors on three overarching pillars of 1) improving agricultural productivity; 2) climate resilience through adaptation to climate variability; and 3) mitigation or the reduction of greenhouse gas emission from agriculture activities.

During the field tour, Dr. Abdel Ismail, principal scientist at IRRI, explains the flood and salt tolerant varieties developed by IRRI.

With support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and CCAFS co-organized the activity held in 2-4 June 2015 in Muntinlupa City. UNEP’s climate change expert Julia Steinfeld said the activity, the third in a series of CSA workshops that UNEP has supported, intended to provide an avenue to facilitate technology transfer, promote institutional and technical knowledge exchange on CSA, and foster regional collaboration.

About 80 participants from 16 countries across Asia shared and discussed CSA technologies during the workshop. There was also a poster session featuring CSA technologies being practiced in participating countries. In addition, the participants visited IRRI’s demonstration sites and laboratories where the Institute developed its CSA technologies over the years. Identify tools, policies, and mechanisms that facilitate and accelerate the upscaling and outscaling of the technologies were discussed during the visit.

The Workshop on Climate-Smart Agriculture Technologies outputs will be used to develop climate financing proposals from the participating countries.