Stories tagged: conservation agriculture

Agroecology in Action: with Professor Pedro Sanchez

Where in the world are agroecological approaches building soil health, beating pests and helping farmers stay productive while protecting the planet? Pedro Sanchez, Research Professor of Tropical Soils at the University of Florida Soil & Water Sciences Department continues our “Agroecology in Action” series with this guest post.

Simply put, agroecology is a form of agriculture that takes maximum advantage of ecological processes.

In some situations, nature is able to function as a closed system; take a tropical forest for example. When nutrients are finely balanced in the system, they are recycled, meaning there is no need for extra nutrient inputs to be added.

Agriculture however, requires a regular harvesting of crops. This results in large amounts of essential nutrients being removed from the soil. Agroecological approaches must return these vital components to the soil, to ensure the soil stays healthy and can continue to grow the crops we require. This can be achieved through efficient fertilization— mineral, organic, or for the best results, both. Continue reading

Agroecology in Action: with Professor Tim Benton

What is agroecology? How can farmers be encouraged to adopt its principles? Professor Tim Benton, Dean of Strategic Research at Leeds University and former UK Global Food Security Champion answers these questions in the second installment of Farming First’s “Agroecology in Action” series, produced ahead of the Second  International Symposium on Agroecology held by the FAO in Rome from 3-5th April 2018.

In scientific terms, “agroecology” refers to the application of ecological principles to agriculture – that is, harnessing nature to support agricultural production. Our planet depends on its ecological resilience, and it is important to find more sustainable methods of growing produce to allow production to be repeated time and time again.

Well known methods include crop rotation – planting a sequence of crops that will naturally improve soil fertility – or enhancing natural enemies to control pests on a farm.

From a science perspective, it is also credible to apply a “mix and match” approach, in which natural methods can work in synergy with more conventional farming methods. Using biology to control pests or rotations to grow fertility allows synthetic inputs to be used in more targeted ways, when, and where, they are most needed.  If you are enhancing natural pest control, pesticides can become a last, rather than first, resort. Continue reading

World Congress on Conservation Agriculture

1-4 August 2017

Rosario, Argentina

The World Congress on Conservation Agriculture will demonstrate that Conservation Agriculture is  the best tool to mitigate climate change and to adapt to the effects of climate change, contributing to food security, promoting resilience and biodiversity and, with this, helping to save the planet. The 7WCCA will bring together farmers, policy makers, scientists and educationalist from all around the world, along with financing representatives, risk brokers and others stakeholders to identify the best solutions for all regions. Read more >>

Bringing Conservation and Agriculture Together

This blog was originally posted on CGIAR’s Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog

Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International, is currently attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea where he took part in: ‘From Competition to Collaboration between Agriculture and Conservation. Here he shares his thoughts about why it is so important for agriculture and conservation agendas to come together:

“For some time,  agriculture and conservation have operated in separate worlds with separate agendas. Agriculture has been seeking ways to increase production to feed a growing population, while conservation has been in a race to save more land for preservation purposes. ”

Taking an ecological approach to farming can bring agriculture and conservation together.At the same time, our world is reaching a tipping point – with an expected 9 billion people in the world by 2050 and climate change already having effects with major droughts and floods. We need to collaborate and find ways to prevent catastrophe and also insure our futures and those of generations to come.

What does this collaboration look like? For farmers in some of the world’s poorest areas, it includes adding more diversity on farms to diversify production and improve the resilience of food production systems, while at the same time increase pollination and maintain healthy soils. It means policy makers need to advocate for an ecological approach to farming and protecting smallholder farmers. It means farms are seen as parts of diverse mosaic landscapes including corridors that link natural ecosystems and allow wildlife to prosper at the same time as agriculture. It means approaching agriculture not for the short term, but for a sustainable future.

Bioversity International is working with partners to conduct more research and provide critical decisionmaking information in this area. This research will result in decision making tools for policy makers, land managers, conservationists, and farmers – giving them more options in a world running out of time to meet production and conservation goals. Examples include EcoAgriculture Partners’ Landscapes for People, Food and Nature initiative, the Natural Capital Project, CGIAR’s Water, Land and Ecosystems research program, and of course this week’s workshops at IUCN.

Biodiversity is a significant factor in all of these examples, because it is in an excellent position to contribute to both agriculture and conservation. Farming systems have to transform, while conservation efforts need to ramp up to halt the everyday loss of biodiversity, including in agricultural landscapes and not just in protected areas.

Genebanks make up an important part of the efforts to conserve plant genetic diversity, but the world’s farms have to play a critical role in this effort through a dynamic form of conservation. Smallholder farmers in particular – many of whom are women – are the custodians and users of biodiversity. The choices they make in the varieties they plant, grow, harvest and sell directly also affect the diversity in our diets, our supermarkets and on our tables.

This approach is already under way, but needs more support. Research to provide healthy, resilient, sustainable ecosystem services is needed now. These services involve the entire interplay of social, cultural, ecological and financial dimensions. Interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral cooperation is vital. Become our partner in this effort.

Find out more about what Bioversity International is doing at the IUCN World Conservation Congress here.

About the Author:

Emile Frison is the Director General of Bioversity International.

Improving Yields in Zambia through Conservation Agriculture

In many countries where soil has been degraded or where farmers face difficult conditions, conservation agriculture has also been shown to improve yields through improved soil quality.

For example, in Zambia, a sample of 125 hand-hoe farmers using conservation farming in areas where land had been degraded was found to produce 1.5 tonnes more maize and 460 kg more cotton per hectare than did farmers practicing conventional ox-plough tillage.

Conservation Agriculture

The combination of crop protection products and biotech crops has significantly helped advance conservation agriculture as a means of restoring and protecting soil and limiting erosion.

It is estimated that conservation agriculture can reduce soil erosion by 50 to 98 percent while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent through reduced oxidation of soil organic matter. No till is now being utilized on more than 95 million hectares, mostly in the USA, Brazil, Argentina, China, Canada and Paraguay.

No till farming in the USA doubled in the five year period following the introduction of herbicide-tolerant soybeans. It is estimated that this led to the preservation of 247 million tons of topsoil and 243 million gallons of fuel in 2002 alone.