Sustainable agriculture

News: During the recent climate summit in Glasgow, India did not ratify “Action Agenda on Sustainable Agriculture”.

India stated that it already has a “National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture” as part of its broad “National Action Plan on Climate Change”. However, these initiatives have failed to improve the condition of Indian agriculture.

What are the issues in Indian agricultural practices?

The country’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission from the farm sector is increasing constantly.

-India overtook China in 2011 to become the world’s top polluter in terms of agricultural emissions.

-Emission from the two main methane-emitting activities — paddy cultivation and livestock rearing — is also increasing continuously.

Environment-friendly practices, like organic farming or zero-budget cultivation, are not able to match the massive and rapidly growing demand for farm products.

What is the solution?

India needs “sustainable agriculture” whereby technologies and agronomic practices are efficient, least injurious to the environment, and yet profitable for farmers.

What are the means to execute such a sustainable practice?

Mixing the modern productivity-boosting technologies, including environment-resilient crop varieties and animal breeds, with traditional knowledge and norms, that promote living in harmony with nature.

Widely practiced mono-cropping and unchanged cropping cycles should be replaced with diversified farming.  It should include a judicious mix of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, and agroforestry.

Land-restoring and fertility-enhancing crops like legumes and quick-growing vegetation should be included in the cropping sequence. It will improve soil’s physical, chemical, and biological health.

Physical churning of soil needs to be avoided or minimized. Novel concepts like conservative agriculture involving zero or minimum tillage and direct seeding of crops can help to do so.

Mixing manures-Greater use of farmyard manure in combination with chemical fertilizers.

-Placement of fertilizers at the right depth near the plant roots and rational use of pesticides can help in promoting sustainable farming.

Integrated disease and pest management, involving the planting of disease-resistant crop varieties and deployment of natural predators of pests.

Promotion of rainwater harvesting and economical use of water through systems like drip and sprinkler irrigation.

Practices like stubble burning need to be forbidden.

Source: This post is based on the article “Sustainable agriculture” published in Business Standard on 23 November 2021.

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