Profitable and Sustainable Farming with Conservation Agriculture

Sub-theme 1: Successful experiences and learnings from Conservation Agriculture worldwide

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an innovative alternate paradigm of regenerative, ecological and sustainable agriculture that is replacing the degrading conventional tillage based agriculture worldwide. CA has spread globally over more than 180 M ha of annual cropland across all continents and land-based agro-ecologies. Global CA area has been increasing at an annual rate of more than 10 M ha since 2008/09, and smallholder and larger-scale farmers worldwide are successfully overcoming in various ways the biophysical and socio-economic constraints to achieve this remarkable agricultural transformation. The adoption of CA is occurring in all land-based systems in rainfed and irrigated agriculture, including annual and perennial cropping systems, including orchards and plantation systems, agroforestry systems, crop-livestock systems, rice-based systems and organic systems.

This sub-theme will highlight the successful experiences and learnings in all CA systems and land management in different regions, countries and agro-ecologies across the world. The sub-theme will illustrate the nature of the worldwide success in different annual and perennial CA cropping and farming systems across different agro-ecological zones and socio-economic conditions for smallholder and larger-scale farmers under the difference situations of farm power, mechanization and economic development.

  • Adoption and spread of CA-based smallholder and larger-scale systems including rainfed and irrigated annual and perennial systems
  • CA annual and perennial horticultural systems
  • CA rice-based systems
  • CA mixed systems with or without livestock
  • CA plantation and agroforestry systems
  • CA and organic farming
  • Experiences and learnings from the practice and management of multi-faceted CA cropping and farming systems in different agroecological regions (lowland, upland, hilly and mountain environments in the tropics, sub-tropics, temperate) across different continents and with different types of farm power and mechanization
  • Farmers organization, support and empowerment to overcome constraints to adoption and maintain good quality CA systems
  • CA farmers’ relation with service providers and relevant stakeholders to get their support

Sub-theme 2: Farm and ecosystem level benefits of CA systems to farmers, society and environment

Conservation Agriculture offers a wide range of productivity, economic, environmental and social benefits to the farmer and society. These benefits include improved yields and yield stability and profit, optimized and reduced use and cost of production inputs including agrochemicals, fuel, time and capital, control of soil erosion and land degradation, enhancement of biodiversity, climate change adaptability and mitigation, and improved ecosystem societal service such as clean water, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and pollination services.

This sub-theme will present the global empirical and scientific evidence on a wide range of productivity, economic, environmental and social benefits and impact that are being provided in the different agro-climatic zones through CA-based cropping and farming systems. The sub-theme will also elaborate a range of ecosystem functions and services that are being harnessed at the community and society, landscape, watershed and regional levels, and any supporting assessment and certification schemes.

  • Optimization of production and resource use with CA systems
  • Enhancing productivity, profit and stability with CA systems
  • CA systems as a sustainable and productive measure against soil erosion and land degradation, including in cold and wet climate with hilly terrain
  • CA as the core of annual and perennial production systems in climate smart agriculture, contributing to optimizations of the value chain
  • Ecosystem services harnessed at the farm, landscape, community, society and ecosystem level in CA-based farming systems
  • Climate change adaptability and mitigation with CA systems
  • Prevention of infrastructure damage in rural and urban areas through CA land use reducing drought, floods and heatwaves
  • CA-based certification systems

Sub-theme 3: Mainstreaming of CA with national policy and institutional support and for global governance to support national and international needs and commitments

Mainstreaming is a process of aligning and providing coherent multi-stakeholder support to achieve and sustain the transformation of conventional tillage-based agriculture into the new alternate Conservation Agriculture paradigm. There is a particular challenge for farmers, especially smallholders, in many parts of the world to access sustainable mechanization complying implements and no-till seeding and weeding equipment and machinery. There a need to ensure the availability of adapted seeds of leguminous and non-leguminous cover crop, as well as the need to reduce or minimize and optimize the use of production inputs of agrochemicals, energy and farm power, and maximize input factor productivity. Support is also needed to meet environmental and food safety standards in CA systems and to strengthen the biological and ecological basis of all CA systems. Policy and institutional support and incentives from government, private and civil sectors constitute a major driving force for mainstreaming CA systems and best practices at the local, national and global level over the shorter and longer time horizons.

The sub-theme will highlight the policy and institutional support systems, including commercial and financial investments and infrastructure development, for mainstreaming CA farming systems and value chains across nations and continents. A particular emphasis will be paid to availability and access to CA equipment and machinery as well as seeds of cover crops, particularly by smallholders. It will also consider incentives and institutional support to farmers and their communities to adopt and improve CA-based agricultural land management. It will address the developmental role of CA famer organizations, research, education, service providers and investment in CA uptake and scaling, and the relevance of CA quality assurance and certification schemes. The sub-theme will elaborate upon the role of CA in climate smart agriculture and in the implementation of international conventions, treaties and agreements such as on climate change, biodiversity, land degradation as well as the UN SDGs.

  • CA support systems worldwide that are favouring mainstreaming of CA approach to sustainable intensification and land use
  • Policy and institutional (public, private, civil sectors) support needed for CA adoption and spread in different agroecological regions
  • Justified kinds of incentives to support CA adoption and spread, and ecosystem service payments that can be integrated for CA support
  • Technical and policy research needed to support CA uptake and what role education and extension can play in developing CA community of practice over the medium and longer term
  • The role of mechanization in CA uptake and commercialization of CA value chains
  • Integration of pasture, trees and animals into CA systems
  • Research on crop, soil, nutrient, water, pest, energy and farm power management in CA systems
  • CA-based precision farming
  • Research on cost of no action (business as usual)
  • The role of private sector in mainstreaming CA in different ecological regions in different continents
  • Financial investments required for mainstreaming CA
  • Advocacy for mainstreaming CA
  • The role of CA in meeting the objectives of international conventions, treaties and frameworks, including Paris Agreement, 4 per 1000, land degradation neutrality, SDGs, etc

Sub-theme 4: Promoting CA-based knowledge and innovation systems and information sharing and communication

A key area of continuing need and application to support CA-based agricultural transformation is the need to generate, organize, process, analyse and share knowledge and information regarding different CA farming systems and supporting practices, including the related agro-ecologies and socio-economic conditions. Reliable empirical and scientific evidence from knowledge and innovation systems are needed across the value chains and sectors related to management of CA systems and practices and their performance to create awareness and understanding, formulate policies, provide institutional support and accelerate the spread of good quality CA systems and best practices.

This sub-theme will focus upon CA related knowledge and innovation systems including farmer-based innovation systems, and on-farm systems research that are successfully supporting CA adoption and scaling, and the associated productivity, economic, environmental and social impact. It will also elaborate CA-based knowledge sharing and communication approaches, including through social media, web-based interactive platforms, on-line learning and training resources, and farmer networks. The sub-theme will cover ways to meet knowledge and information needs of all the stakeholders involved in promoting and supporting CA adoption and mainstreaming.

  • Communication for successful application of CA practices and systems
  • Examples of farmer-driven knowledge networks
  • On-site and off-site benefits of CA
  • Farmer initiatives including farmer working groups, farmer-to-farmer network
  • Farmer innovations and on-farm participatory research
  • Communication through social media
  • National and international knowledge and communication networks
  • Knowledge and information needs of stakeholders
  • Knowledge platforms, online courses, MOOCS, etc