Evaluating sustainable Intensification options for intensive cereal systems in North-West IGP

Description of the topic

In the present scenario the biggest challenge is to produce more food for the continually increasing world population with in the limited land and water resources. Crop production needs to be increased by 60% to feed the projected global population of 9.1 billion by 2050 (FAO 2009; Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). Serious water deficits, diminishing profitability and deteriorating natural resources are some of the major threats to the agricultural sustainability in many regions of South Asia (Chaudhary et al., 2018).

Rice-based cropping systems include lowland continuous rice cropping, rice-wheat rotation, maize-rice rotation, and upland rice-winter crop systems (Ladha et al. 2003; Hossain  et al. 2016). The rice-based cropping systems predominantly  follow traditional cultivation techniques that involve wet ploughing (puddling) of rice field followed by tillage with  traditional desi plough or mouldboard plough system for other  crops in the rotation (Hobbs et al. 2008).  

In South Asia, continuous rice cropping and rice-wheat rotation occupy approximately 26% of the cultivated land with additional 30% area under the rainfed mixed farming that includes upland rice production (FAO 2017). Rice-wheat (RW) cropping system is the most dominating in the North-Western (NW) plain zone of India, which occupies at most 13.5 Mha of this region and contributes about 40% of the country’s total food grain basket (Gupta and Seth, 2007). Though the traditional management practices this system provides a high productivity but this costs higher exploitation of the natural resources (Laddha et al., 2003). A steady increase in the depth from surface to groundwater has been reported in the NW of India, since early 1970s (Rodell et al., 2009). The over exploitation of groundwater resources due to high water input and low water productivity, in the conventional RW regions of NW India, has been reported by many researchers (Yadvinder et al., 2014).

Food security and water sustainability may be achieved by bringing improvement in the crop water productivity and the amount produced per unit of water consumed (Brauman et al., 2013). The increase in the crop water productivity may be achieved by pursuing alternative crops and cropping systems, which are more friendly and efficient in utilizing natural resources (Chaudhary et al., 2018). Adoption of pulse-cereal-pulse or cereal-oilseed-pulse cropping system may help in the efficient use of natural resources and may become a mean for the higher economic returns, even for the marginal farmers.  

The conventional practices of crop establishments are input intensive with low economic returns; therefore, in recent years, efforts are increasingly devoted to finding more efficient alternatives of current intensive tillage and crop establishment practices in various cropping systems (Ladha et al., 2009). Furthermore, the adoption of zero tillage and residue retention may not only reduce input costs but may also improve the soil and the environment (Choudhary et al., 2018; Jat et al., 2015).

This study is therefore planned to evaluate efficiency of different cropping systems with sustainable intensification practice in the Karnal district with the following specific objectives:

  1. To evaluate and identify sustainable intensification opportunities for cereal rotations in north-West IGP.
  2. To study the effect of different cropping systems and management practices on production system efficiency and soil health

Work expectations

The field experiments will be conducted for two years at the experimental farms of Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal under on-going ICAR-CSSRI-CIMMYT research platform.