06 Feb 2009
The only way for the world’s farmers to meet the food demands of a growing population, and to cope with climate change, is to switch to more sustainable farming methods, said a top expert with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) yesterday.
A fundamental part of that change is to move away from conventional intensive farming methods to what is known as conservation agriculture, said Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division, in a keynote speech at the Fourth World Congress on Conservation Agriculture in New Delhi, India.
‘In the name of intensification in many places around the world, farmers over-ploughed, over-fertilized, over-irrigated, over-applied pesticides,’ Pandey said. ‘But in so doing we also affected all aspects of the soil, water, land, biodiversity and the services provided by an intact ecosystem. That began to bring yield growth rates down.’
Conservation agriculture is a farming system that does not use regular ploughing and tillage but promotes permanent soil cover and diversified crop rotation to ensure optimal soil health and productivity.
Pandey stressed that conservation agriculture could not only help increase yields but also help the environment, not only by restoring soil health, but reducing water and energy use and production of greenhouse gases – with agriculture currently responsible for around 30 percent of global emissions.
The four-day Congress, hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), is the largest gathering of the conservation agriculture community, bringing together farmers, experts, and policymakers from all over the world. FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other organizations are among the sponsors and co-organizers of the event.
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