Conservation Agriculture-based Sustainable Intensification of Cereal Systems Leads to Energy Conservation, Higher Productivity and Farm Profitability. uri icon

abstract

  • In the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia, the quadruple challenges of deteriorating soil quality, declining groundwater, energy shortages, and diminishing farm profitability threaten sustainability of conventional till (CT)-based cereal production systems. A 5-year study was conducted to evaluate the effect of conservation agriculture (CA)-based management (tillage, crop establishment, residue management, and system intensification through mungbean integration) on energy budget, water productivity, and economic profitability in cereal (rice-wheat, RW/maize-wheat, MW)-based systems compared with CT-based management. In CA systems, crop residues contributed the maximum (similar to 76%) in total energy input (167,995 MJ ha(-1)); however, fertilizer application (nonrenewable energy source) contributed the maximum (43%) in total energy input (47,760 MJ ha(-1)) in CT-based systems. CA-based cereal (rice/maize) systems recorded higher net energy and energy-intensiveness (EI) levels of 251% and 300%, respectively, compared with those of the CT-based rice-wheat system (RW/CT) (295,217 MJ ha(-1) and 46.05 MJ USD-1), irrespective of mungbean integration. MWMb/ZT+R utilized 204% more input energy, which resulted in 14% higher net energy and 229% higher EI compared with RW/CT. CA-based RW and MW systems enhanced the crop productivity by 10 and 16%, water productivity by 56 and 33%, and profitability by 34 and 36%, while saving in irrigation water by 38 and 32%, compared with their respective CT-based systems, respectively. CA-based system improved net energy, crop productivity, and profitability; therefore, it should be outscaled to improve the soil and environmental quality in north-west India.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020