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winter 2013 PArtnerS
conservation agriculture in india is well and truly
underway, with the technology spreading east
across the indo-gangetic Plain.
innovations include the development of zero-
till rice, double-till wheat-rice cropping and the
design of specialised no-till machinery and its
manufacture in india.
BY MeLISSA MArInO
n modern-day india, the economy is growing
fast. it is expected that within a decade
the country’s 1.24 billion people will have,
on average, nearly double their current
disposable income. And with growing
affluence comes an increased demand for food,
particularly as the very poor climb out of poverty.
that demand, especially for grain, is serviced
by the region’s food bowl: the indo-Gangetic
Plain, which runs across india’s north (and part of
nepal), stretching from Pakistan to Bangladesh.
But under current production rates—and if
productivity growth falters—the food bowl will
struggle to keep pace with demand.
ACiAr principal regional coordinator for
South and west Asia and Africa Dr John Dixon
says if india has to import grain it will create
ripples around the world, pushing up food
prices and ultimately causing more poverty.
“it’s really important that we stabilise and boost
productivity growth,” he says.
And so ACiAr is moving to help ensure
demand will be met—while also alleviating
poverty. this continues a long tradition of
partnership with india to introduce key advances
in conservation agriculture (CA) to help stabilise
productivity growth and build yields.
At the request of the indian Government,
ACiAr is now helping government agencies and
universities take CA from the north-west, where
it was established, to the country’s east, which is
home to more than half the world’s poor.
in a new project under development with
four Australian universities, the Australian
Agency for international Development
(AusAiD) and the international Maize and
BY MeLISSA MArInO
The Happy seeder represented a
breakthrough for farmers across
india’s north-west rice-wheat
cropping zone both in terms of
conservation agriculture (ca)
benefits and other benefits directly
developed initially to reduce
the amount of suffocating smoke
that blanketed the Punjab after rice
stubbles were burnt to sow wheat,
the Happy seeder allowed farmers
to direct-drill wheat into full, thick,
combine-harvested rice residues for
the first time. This eliminated any
need to burn rice stubbles.
“it enables the sowing of any
seed into any stubble,” says inventor
Professor john Blackwell, who led
the aciaR-funded project. This
meant that not only was the amount
of hazardous smoke reduced, but
that growers could also engage
completely in zero-till farming
year-round. and a double no-till
system of wheat and rice is a prime
example of ca in practice: soils are
improved, less water is required and
greater profits are made.
But the development of the
Happy seeder also provided a
rare example of scientific and
agricultural cooperation across the
volatile political border between
india and Pakistan.
With the Happy seeder
being developed in india, and a
Pakistani version—the Rocket
seeder—underway at the same
time in companion projects, aciaR
organised for a study tour of
farmers and engineers from both
countries to visit their respective
agronomic and manufacturing sites.
it was a formidable challenge
of logistics but worth the effort,
says former aciaR land and water
resources research program
manager dr christian Roth, who
organised the tours. “There was a
competition, of course, between the
two sides and that was one of the
reasons i did this exchange, so they
could learn from each other and
dr Roth says each country had
its advantages. The indian project,
thanks to a cooperative and
committed working relationship
between the engineers and the
manufacturers, skipped ahead and
had a commercial product ready
The Happy Seeder facilitates direct seeding of
wheat into rice stubble, a conservation
agriculture practice with both environmental
and economic benefits. For more information
download volume 77 in ACIAR’s Impact
Assessment Series (IAS77).
Figure 1 Cost-benefit
analysis of three Happy
of return = 20%
Four ‘revolutions’ in conservation agriculture in
India in which ACIAR partners are helping ensure
the region’s food bowl continues to meet an
accelerating demand for grain.
a happy collaboraTion seeds progress
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