Conservation Agriculture Park at BARI: A Unique Demonstration Place a First of Its Kind in Bangladesh
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance (i.e., no tillage), maintenance of a permanent soil cover and diversification of plant species (www.fao.org/ag/ca). It enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contributes to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and improves and sustains crop production. CA is a tool to increase soil organic carbon, which is declining due to extensive tillage, intensive cropping patterns and the use of high-yielding varieties. The benefit of CA could be visible in a field where CA is being practiced in a complete cropping pattern over the years. Although CA is being implemented worldwide, very limited work is being done in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) has been working on CA since the 1990s. However, it did not gain popularity among the farmers due to the season-based, partial application of CA practices. CA is mainly practiced in Rabi (dry winter) season for upland crops and the rice crop is cultivated in the following season using conventional tillage. Since CA is not fully implemented, the effects are not observed. As a result, there is little chance of observing the benefits of CA activities and enhancing the knowledge of the farmers, students, researchers and policymakers. BARI has established a conservation agriculture park (CA park) in Gazipur during 2020-2021 with the cooperation of the USAID-funded Appropriate Scale Mechanization Innovation Hub (ASMIH)-Bangladesh project, under the umbrella of Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) at Kansas State University. The park will display the long-term effects of CA on crop yield and soil properties for different cropping systems.
The CA park is situated at the BARI research field in Gazipur covering 1 hectare of land area. In Bangladesh, three main types of land exist for crop production, such as high, medium and low land. Moreover, rice, especially Aman rice (rainfed monsoon rice) is the main crop in most cropping patterns. Therefore, all three land elevations are displayed in the CA park. The southern part of the park is high land and is considered for conducting tillage and residue effect studies on crop productivity, soil health and profitability in maize-cover crop-rice cropping patterns. The middle part is medium land and is considered for conducting tillage and residue effect studies on crop productivity, soil health and profitability in mungbean-cover crop-rice cropping patterns. The northern part is low land and is considered for conducting non-puddled rice planting to improve soil health and profitability studies in long-term rice-rice-rice cropping patterns (with rice residue management).
A submersible solar pump with a 4020 Wp solar panel has been installed for green energy irrigation in the CA park. A field lab cum pump house has also been built along with the solar pump systems. The buried pipe irrigation systems with eight risers have been established for efficient water management in the CA experiments. The solar pump and its risers are now operated automatically using a mobile app. This park is working as a crop museum where different pattern-based experiments have been conducted along with a field lab. A CA machinery website (www.camachinery.org) was launched to disseminate the activities of the CA park along with available farm machinery and related services available in Bangladesh. Strip-tillage and zero-tillage practices are being implemented using the BARI-developed two-wheel and four-wheel operated seeders, shown below.
In four to five years, the park will be creating a scope to observe the CA impacts for farmers, students, policymakers and interested learners to acquire knowledge on how crop production along with improvement of soil fertility with low inputs, time and energy compared to traditional crop production systems. There are reasons to believe that the CA park will play an important role in the dissemination of knowledge to stakeholders for sustainable crop production and ensuring the food and nutrition security of the country.
For more information, please contact Dr. Md. Ayub Hossain, chief scientific officer, Farm Machinery and Postharvest Process Engineering Division, BARI, Gazipur-1701, Bangladesh (email: [email protected], cell number: +88 01716979034).
This post is written by:
Md. Ayub Hossain, Farm Machinery and Postharvest Process Engineering Division, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Gazipur, Bangladesh
Muhammad Arshadul Hoque, Farm Machinery and Postharvest Process Engineering Division, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Gazipur, Bangladesh
Md. Jahangir Alam, Farm Machinery and Postharvest Process Engineering Division, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Gazipur, Bangladesh
Chayan Kumer Saha, Department of Farm Power and Machinery, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh
Md. Monjurul Alam, Department of Farm Power and Machinery, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh
The ASMC, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is part of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification at Kansas State University. ASMC is funded by USAID.
Key leaders and implementers include: Michigan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Tillers International, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Royal Agricultural University at Phnom Penh, Nazi Boni University at Bobo-Dioulasso and the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research.