Q.The Conservation Agriculture has found much support in India in the wake of climate change and rises in input costs. Critically analyze the statement and is it relevant in the present Indian scenario? (10 marks, 200 words, GS-3)
- We can define the Conservation Agriculture in the first para along with the position in India.
- The next para could contain the advantages of the Conservation Agriculture.
- In the next para we can have the issues and challenges.
- The concluding para could have the future of the Conservation Agriculture.
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a farming system that encourages maintenance of a permanent soil cover, minimum soil disturbance like no tillage and variegation of plant species. It helps in increasing biodiversity and natural biological processesabove and below the ground surface that contributes to enhanced water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production.
The Conservation Agriculture is based on the following principles–
- Minimum tillage and soil disturbance
- Maintaining soil cover
- Crop rotation
Efforts to develop and spread conservation agriculture have been made through the combined efforts of several State Agricultural Universities, ICAR institutes and the Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains. The spread of technologies is taking place in India in the irrigated regions in the Indo-Gangetic plains where rice-wheat cropping systems dominate.
The benefits of Conservation Agriculture includes-
- Conservation agriculture improves soil structure and protects the soil against erosion and nutrient losses by maintaining a permanent soil cover and minimizing soil disturbance.
- CA practices improve soil organic matter (SOM) levels and nutrient availability by utilizing the previous crop residues.
- Conservation agriculture requires significantly less water use due to increased infiltration and enhanced water holding capacity from crop residues left on the soil surface.
- Soil nutrient supplies and cycling are enhanced by the biochemical decomposition of organic crop residues at the soil surface that are also vital for feeding the soil microbes.
- Less labour is required as involves less weeding and pests problems and zero-tillage.
- Insect pests and other disease causing organisms are held in check by an abundant and diverse community of beneficial soil organisms.
- Conservation agriculture represents an environmentally-friendly set of technologies because it uses resources more efficiently than conventional agriculture.
- Farmers using CA technologies typically report higher yields (up to 45-48% higher) with fewer water, fertilizer and labour inputs, thereby resulting in higher overall farm profits.
- Conservation agriculture also has the benefit of being accessible to many small-scale farmers who need to obtain the highest possible yields with limited land area and inputs.
However it is not so that Conservation Agriculture possesses all the solutions for problems faced by Indian agriculture. It too comes with certain issues and challenges including-
- Lack of appropriate seeders especially for small and medium scale farmers.
- The wide spread use of crop residues for livestock feed and fuel: Specially under rain fed situations, farmers face a scarcity of crop residues due to less biomass production of different crops.
- Burning of crop residues: For timely sowing of the next crop and without machinery for sowing under CA systems, farmers prefer to sow the crop in time by burning the residue.
- Lack of knowledge about the potential of CA to agriculture leaders, extension agents and farmers.
- Managing conservation agriculture systems, will call for enhanced capacity of scientists to address problems from a systems perspective and to be able to work in close partnerships with farmers and other stakeholders.
- Conservation agriculture systems are much more complex than conventional systems.
- Building a system and farming system perspective.
- While the basic principles which form the foundation of conservation agriculture practices, that is, no tillage and surface managed crop residues are well understood, adoption of these practices under varying farming situations is the key challenge.
- Adapting strategies for conservation agriculture systems will be highly site specific, yet learning across the sites will be a powerful way in understanding why certain technologies or practices are effective in a set of situations and not effective in another set.
Conservation agriculture offers a new paradigm for agricultural research and development different from the conventional one, which mainly aimed at achieving specific food grains production targets in India. A shift in paradigm has become a necessity in view of widespread problems of resource degradation, which accompanied the past strategies to enhance production with little concern for resource integrity. Developing and promoting CA systems will be highly demanding in terms of the knowledge base. This will call for greatly enhanced capacity of scientists to address problems from a systems perspective; be able to work in close partnerships with farmers and other stakeholders and strengthened knowledge and information-sharing mechanisms.