Product Line 3.2. Resource-conserving technologies for diversified farming systems

 Rationale 

Intensive, diversified rice-based production systems are a main economic activity in many rural areas and they provide the staple food for hundreds of millions of people, and greatly affect the livelihoods and health of the urban and rural poor. Intensive cereal cropping systems that include rice, wheat, and/or maize are widespread throughout South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), providing the bulk of the regional food supply there. Rice-wheat cropping is also important in China and rice-maize systems are gaining importance in Southeast and South Asia. Rice-wheat occupies 13.5 million hectares in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia and another 3.5 million ha in China. More recently, increasing demand for maize in many countries of Asia has resulted in the diversification of rice-rice or rice-wheat systems to rice-maize systems, which probably occupy up to 3 million ha at present. In Africa, diversified cropping systems occur in inland valleys with good market connections. More profitable crop rotations with high yields, including higher-value crops, legumes, and fodder crops, have good market potential and are a promise for generating employment and income. 
Market forces are driving further intensification and diversification of rice-based cropping systems in irrigated and so-called favorable (sufficient rainfall, good soils, good market access) areas in Asia and Africa. To be sustainable, however, such intensive “future” cereal systems must use resources efficiently and management must focus on sustaining soil health and productivity. Overuse and losses of agro-chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers) and consumption of limited resources (water, phosphorus) degrade the environment, deplete precious resources, and diminish the capacity of rice ecosystems to sustain rice productivity and deliver other ecosystem services. Resource-conserving technologies and principles of conservation agriculture are therefore vital components of managing whole cropping systems in these environments. Labor is increasingly scarce and expensive, and options for mechanization and direct seeding (instead of the traditional method of transplanting) are increasingly important. Persistent yield losses to diseases, animal pests, and weeds remain a major concern. 
This product line includes the development of resource-conserving management technologies and their underpinning science to enhance the profitability and productivity of diversified rice-based cropping systems while at the same time reducing the negative externalities. Potential impact is improved food security, enhanced livelihoods, and a clean environment, which are derived from profitable, sustainable, and environment-friendly rice-based cropping systems that are ready for the future. 

 Activities

Activities combine long-term and on-station field experimentation at so-called “experimental platforms” with adaptive and participatory research on integrated crop management, mechanization, and resource-conserving technologies and conservation agriculture. At the experimental platforms, cropping systems “of the future” that respond to major drivers of change are designed and tested. Detailed process-based science, supported by simulation modeling, is developed to support the optimization of these cropping systems. Adaptive research trials will be established in farmers’ fields with our research and extension partners, and will deliver concrete site-specific management recommendations for rapid out-scaling. To ensure linkages between the adaptive research and the more detailed experimental platforms, the latter will be located in key target domains where the adaptive research is conducted. Site-specific nutrient management and irrigation water-saving technologies will be developed for whole cropping systems (rotations). Innovation partnerships will ensure that indigenous and local knowledge are captured and that gender-specific issues are examined in the design of new management technologies.

 Products

3.2.1. Diversified cropping systems in Asia
3.2.2. Mechanization and conservation agriculture

 Partnerships

Particularly through CSISA, this product line involves collaboration with many other CGIAR research programs and centers (e.g., CIMMYT, ILRI, IFPRI, ICARDA, ICRISAT, IWMI, WorldFish) working in the target regions, particularly CRP 3 (wheat, maize, pulses, livestock), CRP 1 (aquatic systems/coastal zones), CRP 4 (nutrition), CRP 5 (land, water, ecosystem services), and CRP 7 (climate change). More collaboration will also be sought with AVRDC on the inclusion of vegetables in such systems. Research institutions and universities in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and other countries are key partners in the research on and development of new technologies and the underlying science. For example, Punjab Agricultural University, ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) Research Complex for the Eastern Region, Haryana Agricultural University, and the Directorate of Wheat Research in India are long-standing partners in the development of mechanization options for conservation agriculture in rice-wheat systems. Advanced research institutes in South Asia host new experimental platforms that cater to the more process-based and in-depth research. Local adaptive research and dissemination/diffusion involve an array of public- and private-sector partners. For example, the following partners are involved in adaptive development of farm machinery for mechanized seeding and conservation agriculture in India: John Deere Equipment Pty. Ltd. (Patna), Farmer Association (Begusarai), Department of Agriculture (Haryana), Dasmesh Mechanical Works (Punjab), Amar Agricultural Implements Work (Punjab), and Preet Combines (Punjab). Boundary partners for further uptake and widespread diffusion of developed products include the formal public-sector agencies with an extension mandate (e.g., KVKs in Jamui, Pipra Kotha, E. Champaran, Sarghatia, Kushinagar, Sasuli, Maharajganj, Sasuli, and Maharajganj), NGOs (BRAC, CARE, Save the Children), civil society groups (e.g., Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, Gorakhpur), farmer groups (e.g., Kishamot Bhuipara ICM farmers’ club), and the private sector (e.g., Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Devgen, Pepsico). In Africa, advanced research institutes, such as WUR and Cirad, are partners in research and development for new technologies at research platforms hosted by NARES partners.

 Uptake and impact pathway

Regional and global public goods are taken up and site-specifically adapted by local R&D partners, whereas extension and boundary partners adapt and diffuse technologies to farmers and farmer groups. The next users for integrated cropping system options are scientists from ARIs and NARES partners who will adapt the options to local conditions and validate performance. Intermediate users are extension agents and agricultural experts of NGOs and the private sector (see above on Partnerships). Final users are farmers.
Products from PL 3.2 feed into GRiSP theme 6 and other national and regional co-investment programs for accelerated and large-scale delivery. CSISA and a number of specially funded projects in the target area are major mechanisms to link the development of management technologies with local partners through adaptive research and to accelerate diffusion through fostering and promoting innovation partnerships. CSISA also plays a pivotal role in linking the development of the new products of this product line with large-scale diffusion efforts to support the growth of the rice sector (Theme 6). 

 Financing strategy

The BMGF/USAID-CSISA project, several projects funded by ACIAR, IFAD, and MAFF (Japan), private-sector grants, and new projects focusing on future systems (DFG-ICON, Ecological Intensification) are the major funding mechanisms for this product line. CSISA is expected to last 10–15 years and its continuity is required to guarantee ultimate impact among rice farmers and consumers. CSISA co-invests in several CRPs under TA 3 of the CGIAR. Significant co-investments are provided by numerous local partners involved. Besides the current investments through unrestricted and restricted mechanisms, there is a need for a rapid buildup of investments to increase the capacity to quantify and reduce the footprints of rice production.