Posts Tagged ‘CSISA’

Smart Tools for Farmers in South Asia to Help Increase Yield

Posted on Uncategorized, July 21, 2014

To produce food for more people using less land and under more difficult climatic conditions, many studies predict that the use and demand for fertilizers will continue to rise in South Asia. By 2020, fertilizer demand in India is projected to increase to about 41.6 million tons from 26.4 million tons in 2010. However, fertilizer use by farmers in India is often insufficient and applied inefficiently, leading to sub-optimal yields. As demand for fertilizers rise, it is important to ensure that they are applied at the right amounts, at the right time and in the right locations to enhance productivity and increase crop yields.

In South Asia, 90 percent of smallholder farmers who use fertilizer lack access to soil testing services. Due to blanket fertilizer recommendations provided over a wide area, the application of nutrients is often not well matched to the requirement of the soil and crop. Also, excessive, non-judicious and imbalanced use of chemical fertilizers can result in the deterioration of soil fertility. This is becoming a cause for concern for Indian agriculture. According to a study published in the Journal of the Environment, Development and Sustainability, India is losing soil 30 to 40 times faster than its natural replenishment rate. The solution lies in part in having a precise, site-specific nutrient management approach that will build sustainable and profitable agriculture sector.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and state universities and government partners, are developing localized versions of the ‘Crop Manager’ decision-making tool to provide location-specific fertilizer recommendations for farmers growing rice and maize in Odisha, and rice-wheat and maize in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the Cauvery Delta of Tamil Nadu, a version of ‘Rice Nutrient Manager’ has been developed by CSISA to support and complement the existing crop management advisory services of the State government. The partners are in the advanced field testing phase and are fine-tuning the tools prior to official release.

Crop Manager is an expanded version of Nutrient Manager, first conceptualized and released by IRRI in the Philippines in 2009. Crop Manager combines improved nutrient management with field-specific best-bet crop management guidelines to address three to four of the main agronomic constraints in addition to fertilizer recommendations.

Fast and Futuristic

The tool includes both web-based and mobile Android application with a simple, user-friendly interface providing personalized fertilizer guidance for small-scale farmers and extension workers. The farmer has to provide information about their fields by responding to a set of 12-15 brief questions about field location, planting method, seed variety, typical yields, choice of fertilizer, method of harvesting and other factors.

Based on these inputs, the program recommends how much fertilizers (nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)) should

CSISA scientists sensitizing the partners and farmers on the Nutrient Manager of Rice tool in a workshop from 17-19 June in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

CSISA scientists sensitizing the partners and farmers on Nutrient Manager for Rice in a workshop from 17-19 June in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

be added at critical growth stages of the plant in order to increase yield and profit. The recommendation is given in the amount of fertilizer that farmer prefers to use and they can receive the advice instantly, if their mobile is connected to internet. The crop manager will be available in Hindi, Odiya and English. Interactive voice response (IVR) system to guide the user through this survey with a recorded questionnaire is also planned.

With mobile phone and internet penetrating fast in rural India – India has 110 million mobile internet users of which 25 million are in rural India – these ICT-based tools, especially in the future, will serve as a useful platform to take knowledge to the farmers easily and when they need it, said Sheetal Sharma, CSISA nutrient management specialist.

Aiming to increase a farmer’s income by US$100 per hectare per crop, the Rice Crop Manager was released in Bangladesh last year, as part of CSISA. Sharma further added that these ICT tools are based on strong scientific principles and show an edge over the traditional soil testing facilities, which usually take more time to give recommendations and require farmers to carry soil samples to a testing facility.

With the help of technologies like Crop Manager, CSISA hopes that farmers in South Asia will be able to replicate high-tech precision farming used in developed countries with easy-to-use and low-cost options. Farmers are able; they just need the right tools.

View the web-based Crop Manager tool, click here.

Watch Seminar on Rice Crop Manager by Roland Buresh, Principal Scientist in the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, IRRI

Innovative Farm Machines Transform Agriculture in Bangladesh

Posted on News & Announcements, February 23, 2014

CSISA MI pic 3Agricultural mechanization in South Asia is helping conserve natural resources, improve productivity and increase profits, but many small-scale farmers have yet to benefit from emerging sustainable farming technologies and machinery. Factors such as the high cost of machines and farmers’ lack of access to finance make the machinery unaffordable for resource-poor farmers. However, Bangladesh leads by example and has been a hotbed of innovation, particularly with the 2WTs that are more appropriate for small-scale farmers than the four-wheel variety. Bangladesh has a strong agricultural tradition – nearly two-thirds of its population works in agriculture. It has achieved near self-sufficiency in rice production and has rapidly developed its agricultural sector over the past 20 years, despite being ranked 146th on the global human development index and having roughly half the per capita income of India. Bangladesh’s agriculture sector contributes 19 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. This is the bright side. The other side, however, is that farmers’ land-holdings are very small – an average farming household owns just 0.2 hectares or less – and Bangladesh is home to intensive cropping rotations. Every square centimeter of arable land is used 1.8 times a year, putting intense pressure on natural resources and making the system unsustainable in the long term. Farmers have to continually adapt to challenges including climate change, rising temperatures and increasing fuel prices to sustain productivity. As a result, many farmers are using innovative agricultural machinery to improve the precision and speed of planting and harvesting operations while reducing fuel, irrigation water and labor requirements. With the introduction of cheap, easy-to-operate and easy-to-maintain 2WTs, agriculture in Bangladesh has become highly mechanized during the last decade. Nearly 80 percent of farmers use 2WTs because they are versatile and can be fitted to a variety of innovative auxiliary equipment for planting, threshing and irrigation. A new CIMMYT book, Made in Bangladesh: Scale-appropriate machinery for agricultural resource conservation, highlights the innovative machinery that can be used with two-wheel tractors (2WT) for sustainable farming and gives detailed technical designs to help standardize production quality, making the machines more accessible to farmers. The information in the book is meant to have real-world impacts. Each chapter has scaled technical designs of the machinery, developed with computer-aided drafting to allow manufacturers in Bangladesh and beyond to reproduce and make improvements on the machines. The chapters focus on zero tillage, strip tillage seed and fertilizer drills, bed planters, axial flow irrigation pumps, strip tillage blades, improved furrow openers and seed metering mechanisms. “Many of the machines in the book are inspiring innovations,” said Timothy Krupnik, CIMMYT cropping systems agronomist and one of the book’s authors. “Bangladesh is often seen in a negative light – most international media focuses on its political tragedies, grinding poverty and pressing environmental concerns. But, if you live in Bangladesh, you can see beyond this because you get inspired every day by the creative ways that many of the world’s poorest people come up with creative solutions to the problems they face. All of the machines in the book were either designed and made in Bangladesh, or borrowed from other machines in South and Southeast Asia and then were manufactured in Bangladesh.” The book’s technical designs can be easily replicated by machinery manufacturers, scientists or farmers. “The drawings were developed in a reverse engineering process, where I measured the machines manually and immediately sketched them on paper by hand,” said co-author Santiago Santos Valle. “Once back in the office, I produced the computer-aided drawings using the hand-made sketches.” A learning module on technical drawing interpretation and instructions on how to use the drawings have also been included. Santos Valle added, “While developing the book and working on the drawings, we did a training workshop with local manufacturers and machinery researchers from partnering institutions in Bangladesh to familiarize them with the drawings. The learnings and feedback from the workshop helped to develop and improve the learning module and the instructions included in the book.” Standardization and Affordability There is a great need for small-scale farmers to adopt new machinery in order to overcome rural labor shortages in Bangladesh, which become more severe each year. “Wheat and maize yields decline between 1 and 1.5 percent per day when planted late, so you can imagine the effect if you use the machines to reduce tillage,” Krupnik explained. “Applying seed and fertilizer in one go can save seven to eight days that farmers would have otherwise spent plowing and preparing the land.” One of the most significant problems confronting mechanization in South Asia is design standardization. “Bangladesh has been a ‘hot bed’ of innovation, particularly for the two-wheel tractor,” said Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT cropping systems agronomist and co-author. “But much of this innovation has not reached farmers at scale because commercialization has been impeded by the lack of standardization. Essentially, most workshops create a unique machine every time a new piece is fabricated, which drives up costs to both manufacture and repair the machinery. Quality control is also an issue.” He emphasized that CIMMYT is playing a catalytic role to ensure high-quality machinery is available at a reasonable cost in Bangladesh. The organization is helping formalize the design elements of innovative machinery and working with workshops and industrial houses to implement these designs. In the USAID-Bangladesh Mission funded project, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia – Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI), CIMMYT partners with the NGO International Development Enterprises (iDE) to develop and execute business models to encourage companies and agricultural manufacturers to produce and distribute the machines through commercial mechanisms. In turn, agricultural service providers are linked to finance entities and farmers to purchase machines and to assure demand in the field. These efforts are boosted by technical backing from CIMMYT scientists who assure that land is planted with reduced tillage implements or irrigated with energy efficient pumps. As a result, the adoption of these machines has significantly increased in the last few months – the machinery is now being used on over 2,000 hectares of new land in southern Bangladesh alone – more than a four-fold increase compared to the year before. The machines included in the book have wide applicability and use outside of Bangladesh, and can be used in many smallholder farming contexts in Asia and Africa. “We want the work done in Bangladesh to inspire agricultural machinery manufacturers to reproduce and improve machines in other countries,” Krupnik said. “For this reason the book is free and available through open access and can be downloaded, printed and shared with others as widely as possible.” The PDF version of the book is available online and can be downloaded from the CIMMYT repository.  

Supporting policy change: Bihar promotes early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology

Posted on News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 19, 2013

CSISA’s efforts to promote early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology get full support from the Bihar Department of Agriculture. After three years of extensive work, CSISA has demonstrated that early wheat sowing – between November 1 and 15 – increases yields, primarily due to the crop’s ability to avoid terminal heat (35°C) during the grain-filling stage. This is a critical intervention in light of the changing climate of the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains. CSISA has also shown that a zero-till seed drill can facilitate early sowing by sowing the crop faster and with less labor. Largely due to CSISA’s policy advocacy around these two issues, the Bihar Department of Agriculture promoted early wheat sowing and zero till technology in its 2013 advisory to farmers, reversing earlier guidance that wheat only be sown in the last two weeks of November, or even in early December. In preparation for the 2013 Rabi cropping season, CSISA, the Bihar Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Technology Management Agency launched a campaign to promote early sowing, zero tillage and to discuss best management practices for wheat. Workshops were held in Darbhanga, Begusarai, Vaishali, Lakhisarai, Samastipur and Muzaffarpur during 26 October to 2 November, 2Bihar advisory on early wheat planting013. CSISA conducted lectures, shared case studies, showed relevant videos, and engaged in discussions with State Department officers and field functionaries at the grassroots level to encourage farmers to advance their wheat sowing at least by 10 days compared to last year, since most farmers would have sown their wheat in late November or early December. The State Agriculture Officers also directed their Block Agriculture Officers, agriculture coordinators, and Krishi Salhakars (farm advisors at the Panchayat level) to ensure maximum area under early wheat sowing, preferably under zero-tillage. The CSISA hub team developed extension materials (factsheets) on the advantages of ‘early sowing of wheat’ and ‘management of Phalaris minor in wheat’ with the help of BAMETI, the extension and training wing of the Bihar Department of Agriculture. These factsheets are being distributed to thousands of field level extension staff.


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