Natural farming and agroecology could accelerate inclusive economic growth in India
International experts in a convention organized on 29 May by NITI Aayog endorsed efforts to significantly boost agroecological and natural farming approaches in India.
Speaking to an audience of senior international and national experts and policymakers, Minister of Agriculture, Shri. Narendra Singh Tomar stated, “Natural farming is our indigenous system based on cow dung and urine, biomass, mulch and soil aeration [. . .]. In the next five years, we intend to reach 20 lakh hectares in any form of organic farming, including natural farming, of which 12 lakh hectares are under BPKP [Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme].
Setting the scene for the online High-level Roundtable, the first of its kind in India, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar established a high bar for the transformation and renewal of agriculture in India when he asked whether agroecology and natural farming can ‘avoid excessive and wasteful use of water, prevent farmer indebtedness, contribute to mitigating greenhouse gases while supporting farmer incomes and their ability to adapt to climate change’.
International experts from the US, UK, Netherlands, CGIAR, Australia, Germany, and of UN acknowledged India’s pioneering leadership in the arena of agroecology—the science of applying ecology to agriculture for sustainable outcomes that are more resilient to climate shocks such as droughts or flooding and pest attacks, but are still productive and support farmer’s livelihoods—and especially natural farming, which is a form of agroecology.
The gathered experts provided evidence from latest studies, cutting-edge research, and science as well as practical experience from economics, finance and markets. The overwhelming conclusion was to support the Minister’s conclusion that natural farming and other agroecological approaches, such as organic agriculture, have great promise for a renaissance of Indian agriculture, so that farming is not just productive but truly regenerative and sustainable. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Rajiv Kumar emphasized that agroecology is the only option to save the planet and is in line with Indian traditions said, it is not man vs nature, but the man in nature or man with nature. Humans need to realize their responsibility in protecting other species and nature. We need knowledge-intensive agriculture and the metrics need to be redefined where production is not the only criterion for good performance. It has to include the entire landscape and the positive and negative externalities that are generated by alternative forms of agriculture practices.’
India can access carbon credits worth USD 50-60 bn if propagates agroecology: Niti Aayog
New Delhi: Suggesting adoption of innovative farming methods based on ecological principles, Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar on Friday said India can have access to carbon credits worth USD 50-60 billion if it propagates natural farming and agroecology.
Kumar during a virtual high-level round-table on ‘Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture’ also stressed on the need to make agriculture more knowledge intensive. He said there is a need to ensure that natural farming is scalable and absorbs innovations.
“We can also access green bonds market worth USD 1 trillion,” Kumar said, adding that India will have to practice agroecology as an innovative process and broaden the metrix for measuring results.
“India can have access to USD 50-60 billion worth of carbon credits if it propagates natural farming and agroecology,” the Niti Aayog vice chairman said.
“Can’t carry on with past practices because that is like driving a car in a dead end street. Need to change direction for saving the environment and improve farmers welfare,” he said.
In India, there has been a long history of farming that is based on traditional and environment-friendly practices. The state of Sikkim became the first-ever organic state in the world and was awarded the UN Future Policy Gold Award, 2018. Agricultural production accounts for 40 per cent of global land surface and is responsible for 70 per cent of projected losses in terrestrial biodiversity.
Moreover, agricultural activities are one of the main contributors to human emissions of greenhouse gases and responsible for 25 per cent of total emissions due to intensive fertiliser usage and deforestation, negatively impacting well-being of at least 3.2 billion people.
Biochar helps hold water, saves money for farmers: Study
Washington [US], October 19 (ANI): The abstract benefits of biochar for long-term storage of carbon and nitrogen on American farms are clear with the new research from Rice University that also shows a short-term, concrete bonus for farmers. The concrete bonus would be money which will not be spent on irrigation.
In the best-case scenarios for some regions, extensive use of biochar could save farmers a little more than 50 percent of the water they now use to grow crops. That represents a significant immediate savings to go with the established environmental benefits of biochar. The open-access study appears in the journal GCB-Bioenergy.
Biochar is basically charcoal produced through pyrolysis, the high-temperature decomposition of biomass, including straw, wood, shells, grass and other materials. It has been the subject of extensive study at Rice and elsewhere as the agriculture industry seeks ways to enhance productivity, sequester carbon and preserve soil.
The new model built by Rice researchers explores a different benefit, using less water. “It’s still an emerging field,” said lead author and Rice alumna Jennifer Kroeger, now a fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington. The study co-led by Rice biogeochemist Caroline Masiello and economist Kenneth Medlock provides formulas to help farmers estimate irrigation cost savings from increased water-holding capacity (WHC) with biochar amendment.
The study analyzes the relationship between biochar properties, application rates and changes in WHC for various soils detailed in 16 existing studies to judge their ability to curtail irrigation. The researchers defined WHC as the amount of water that remains after allowing saturated soil to drain for a set period, typically 30 minutes. Clay soils have a higher WHC than sandy soils, but sandy soils combined with biochar open more pore space for water, making them more efficient.
WHC is also determined by pore space in the biochar particles themselves, with the best results from grassy feedstocks, according to their analysis.
In one comprehensively studied plot of sandy soil operated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Water Management Network, Kroeger calculated a specific water savings of 37.9% for soil amended with biochar. Her figures included average rainfall and irrigation levels for the summer of 2019.
The researchers noted that lab experiments typically pack more biochar into a soil sample than would be used in the field, so farmers’ results may vary. But they hope their formula will be a worthy guide to those looking to structure future research or maximize their use of biochar.