Resource Conservation Technologies
About this eBook
Preface The pressures on natural resources are immense soils are less able to sustain crops as a result of continuous and intensive cropping and reduced organic matter levels. New problems and new challenges in South Asia s breadbaskets require new approaches that are sensitive to concerns about food security, resource use and the environment in general. Rapidly evolving strategies and crop management technologies, such as resource conserving technologies RCTs are being developed and used by farmers to meet the requirement, creating innovative and sustainable opportunities for farmers. Tillage costs are rising, which accentuates the already serious labour shortages during peak periods of land preparation and harvest. For these and other reasons, the sustainability of these systems is in question. Improved tillage and crop establishment practices, especially for rice, show real potential for sustainably improving the productivity and profitability of rice-wheat systems. Efforts are being made to enhance production of rice and wheat up to 7-8 tonnes per hectare annually through residue management. When burnt during land preparation, the residues instantly generate as much as 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare, contaminating the air, depriving soils of organic matter, and constraining supplies of fodder for livestock. Because zero-tillage involves the direct seeding of wheat and several other crops in rice residues, residual moisture use is increased. It is thus no wonder that farmers have been quick to adopt zero tillage and other resource conserving technologies. Another innovation being tested and promoted with farmers is the planting of wheat and rice on raised soil beds, where the furrows facilitate the movement of mechanized equipment and serve as a waterway. Water requirements are 50 less than those under conventional tillage systems. Bed planting can also be used for legumes, maize, potato, vegetables, and other crops that would normally not be raised in a rice field. Resource conserving crop management systems in sustainable crop production have begun to adopt improved crop management practices, a step toward conservation agriculture. It focuses on the complete agricultural system, involves major changes in farm cropping operations from the widely used, traditional tillage-based farming practices. Appropriate RCTs encompass innovative crop
6 production systems that combine the objectives such as dramatic reductions in tillage with an ultimate goal to achieve zero till or controlled till seeding for all crops in a cropping system if feasible, rational retention of adequate levels of crop residues on the soil surface to arrest run-off and control erosion improve water infiltration and reduce evaporation increase soil organic matter and other biological activity to enhance land and water productivity on sustainable basis, identification of suitable crop rotations in cropping system and crop diversification and intensification to boost food security, incomes and overall livelihood security.