Abstract

Agriculture contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: CO2, CH4 and N2O. Promoting agricultural practices that mitigate climate change by reducing GHG emissions is important; but those same practices also have to improve farmer production and income and buffer the production system against changes in climate. New agricultural practices also need to prevent further soil degradation and improve system resilience. Conservation agriculture (CA), based on minimal soil disturbance, permanent ground cover and crop rotations is a management system that achieves these goals; it results in improved soil physical and biological health, and better nutrient cycling and crop growth. CA also increases water infiltration and soil penetration by roots, which allows crops to better adapt to lower rainfall and make better use of irrigation water. Water and wind erosion are also reduced by CA since the soil surface is protected and water runoff is lowered as more water enters the soil profile. CA can also help to mitigate climate change. Growing rice with less water and adopting CA practices results in less CH4 emission. However, care has to be taken with fertilizer management to minimize N2O emissions that can increase under resulting aerobic conditions. CA can also substantially reduce CO2 emissions through reduced diesel use and increased sequestration of C in the soil. This chapter recommends that integrated research and participatory extension are needed to fine-tune CA to specific locations to convince farmers to adopt this technology.

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