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Conservation Agriculture | Explainer

Why in News ?

World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about focusing attention on the importance of water. This year’s theme, ‘Nature for Water’, explores nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals, mostly for irrigation which rises in areas of high water stress and population density. As a nature-based solution to high water usage, Conservation Agriculture has been given as example by World water day organisers.

Conservation Agriculture

Conservation agriculture is based on three principles:

1. minimizing soil disturbance

2. maintaining a continuous soil cover of organic mulch and/or plants and

3. cultivating diverse plant species.

Conservation Agriculture
Photo FAO

Eliminating or minimising tilling or ploughing avoids disturbing and breaking up the topsoil structure, as well as reduces emissions from farm machinery. This has been found to keep the soil more stable, increase drainage, slow down runoff, and drastically reduce pollution of nearby water sources.

The economic benefits of conservation agriculture have been established in various systems around the world, from smallholder agricultural systems in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa to large-scale commercial production systems in Brazil and Canada. Currently, about 1.8 million km2 of croplands are under conservation agriculture, representing about 12.5% of global cropland extent, an increase of nearly 70% since 2008.


Disadvantages in the short term might be the high initial costs of specialized planting equipment, requiring high management skills and a learning process by the farmer. 

Try this quiz

1. Which of the following practices can help in water conservation in agriculture? ‎(UPSC 2017)

‎1. Reduced or zero tillage of the land ‎
‎2. Applying gypsum before irrigating the field ‎
‎3. Allowing crop residue to remain in the field ‎
Select the correct answer using the code given below : 

  1. 1 and 2 only‎
  2. 3 only ‎
  3. 1 and 3 only ‎
  4. 1, 2 and 3

2. Consider the following agricultural techniques.

  1. Zero tillage
  2. Contour plowing
  3. Agro forestry
  4. Intensive Agriculture

Which of the above is/are sustainable agricultural practices that reduces water requirement ?

  1. 1, 2 only
  2. 1,2,3 only
  3. 1,3,4 only
  4. All the above

(comment your answer)

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