Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits



Two paradigm shifts in agriculture are taking place that provide important benefits to farmers and to the environment. Conservation Agriculture involves minimising soil disturbance by avoiding tillage operations; maintaining a continuous soil cover of plants and mulch; and cultivating diverse plant species. Together, these practices protect soils against erosion and desiccation; increase soil organic matter contents that in turn increase soil moisture and nutrient supplying capacities; reduce farmers’ costs of cultivation; reduce chemical pollution of rivers and groundwater from run-off and leaching of fertilisers; and increase carbon sequestration. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) involves growing rice in an aerated soil instead of in flooded paddies. Single young seedlings are planted at regular wide spacing, and the soils kept moist but not wet throughout the growing period. Combined with placement of plant nutrients, this practice increases crop yields; reduces costs of land preparation and seed, fertiliser and water use; and reduces methane emissions.