Healthy soils through Regenerative Agriculture for sustainable food security
Dr Prabavathy, Director Biotechnology, presents MSSRF findings at the DST-ICRISAT national consultation
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) under Ministry of Science and technology, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), organised a national consultation workshop on ‘Harnessing the Potential of Natural Farming (Regenerative Agriculture) as a Low‐Emission Development Pathway for Improved Resilience, Soil Health, Livelihoods and Nutrition in India’ from September 15 to 17, 2022.
The focus of the workshop was to take stock of current knowledge, feasibility and policy needs between natural farming / regenerative agriculture vis-à-vis conventional agriculture farming in India.
Various sustainable farming methods viz., organic agriculture, conservation agriculture, natural farming, sustainable farming, zero budget natural farming, etc., are being practiced currently to improve soil health and increase soil organic matter. While, Regenerative Agriculture (RA), emphases on restoring degraded soils by adopting practices based on ecological principles leading to the development of healthy soil, capable of producing high quality nutrient-dense food, and ultimately leading to productive farms.
In this context, Dr Prabavathy, Director – Biotechnoloy, MSSRF, presented on: ‘Building healthy soils through Regenerative Agriculture for sustainable food security: lessons from the field and policy needs’. Her talked was around adoption of integrated eco-friendly technologies that are necessary for better prospects, which improve farming practices and sustainable agriculture productivity as well as soil health management.
She highlighted empirical data on the use of bio-inputs, which reduces chemical inputs without compromising on yield, under both improved agronomic methods and traditional practices. Her presentation covered data from on-farm demonstrations and multi-location trials carried out in Kolli hills (Tamil Nadu).
Dr Prabavathy also spoke about the case of millets in Odisha, and how by using dual inoculation of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) and Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) it is possible to increase grain yields in millets and pulses by 30 percent, which is more effective than single inoculation. The same is also possible with improved varieties of spices such as pepper, ginger, and turmeric along with Bio-inoculants that showed enhanced yield in Wayanad, Kerala.
Application of bio-inputs not only improved the soil nutrient status in terms of available phosphate and soil organic matter, but also showed improved nutrient status and quality of the produce. Soil metagenomics analysis undertaken to understand the impact of different organic amendments on the soil microbiome indicated increased OUT’s (Operation Taxonomic Units) compared to control.
In conclusion, the presentation highlights the potential of Regenerative Agriculture practices as a pathway to improve soil health and rebuild soil organic matter while restoring degraded soil biodiversity.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.