Share This Article
In this region of the world, several studies show that traditional agricultural practices degrade the soil, reduce groundwater reserves and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The deleterious effects of conventional agriculture are not confined to industrialised countries. In South Asia, which is home to almost 25% of the world’s population, it is mainly rice and wheat crops that are the problem. Most farmers there cultivate small plots intensively, without always using mechanical power or plant protection products.
But several recent studies have highlighted the alarming degradation of the soil, as well as the excessive pressure on groundwater reserves and the worrying increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This is the case, for example, in northern India where, in order to cope with the increase in population and therefore in demand for rice and wheat, irrigation has been pushed to the limit, with catastrophic effects that must now be curbed to prevent the land from becoming incapable of producing anything.
Solutions do exist, and they are beginning to prove themselves in the region. Among them, abandoning ploughing allows the regeneration of biomass and, at the same time, the improvement of soil health. This technique generally involves the use of mulching and the planting of intermediate crops. These serve as plant cover, providing nutrients – especially nitrogen – to the plot, while limiting the use of inputs, especially chemical ones. These good agricultural practices also involve improving irrigation systems and limiting their use to what is strictly necessary, optimising the use of fertilisers – if possible natural ones – and introducing long rotations and associated crops.
A positive environmental impact
This agro-ecological revolution has a positive impact on the environment. Studies have shown a gradual regeneration of biomass, the return of biodiversity, and an effective reduction in the amount of water used. The impact on greenhouse gas production is also very encouraging.
As a result of these good farming practices, some plots showed a 36% increase in soil carbon, which represents 18 tonnes more carbon sequestered per hectare, a significant 12% reduction in methane emissions.
Farmers faced no additional costs and even increased yields to varying degrees depending on the land and crop by reducing expenses through reduced inputs. A study in northern India shows that these new, more environmentally friendly techniques have increased wheat production by half a tonne per hectare, while improving soil quality by 30% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60%.