Broad bed furrows save water and increase crop productivity says an ICRISAT study

An ICRISAT study published in the Agronomy Journal, the flagship journal of the American Society of Agronomy, demonstrates the efficacy of broad bed furrows over conventional flatbed farming and advocates its use as part of an adaptation strategy to mitigate erratic rainfall due to climate change in the semi-arid tropics.

The results show that the soil water content is higher in broad bed furrows by 4-10% depending on soil depths, and the depletion of soil water through plant uptake was higher, indicating its efficiency.

The article is part of the PhD study of the lead author Dr Prasad Jairam Kamdi, Manager, ICRISAT Development Center. The thesis is titled ‘Integrated land-water and nutrient management strategies for cereal-based cropping systems in semi-arid tropics’. In addition to field experiments, assessment of agro-adaptations using ‘crop simulation analysis’ is a highlight of the study. The thesis is a significant contribution to rainfed agriculture that focuses on the integration of land-water and nutrients management with sowing decision, which can minimize the adverse effect of climate change on the productivity of cropping systems in the Semi-Arid Tropics.

This study conducted at ICRISAT from 2014-16 included field experiments on six dryland crops in three cereal-based cropping systems – sorghum-chickpea and maize-groundnut in sequential cropping and pearl millet-pigeonpea in intercropping. The two land-water management techniques used were flatbed and broad bed furrows and the four nutrient management approaches were – N1= control, no fertilizer; N2= 100% recommended application of macronutrients through chemical fertilizer (CF); N3= N2 + 100% recommended application of Sulfur, Zinc, and Boron through CF, and N4= 50% of N2 + 50% of nitrogen through organic fertilizer as vermicompost. Of the four, crops that received both macro- and micronutrient application (N3) performed well followed by (N4).

figure 1

figure 1

Among the cropping systems, sorghum-chickpea showed the highest system equivalent yield and water productivity with the combined application of macro- and micronutrients. The broad bed furrows minimized water stress at critical crop growth stages leading to increase in crop yield and water productivity (see figure 1). The use of this technology along with the application of macro- and micronutrients could be a climate adaptation strategy for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics.

Dr Kamdi was awarded a PhD in Agronomy from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur during the 67th convocation held in December 2021.

Click here to access the paper: http://oar.icrisat.org/11527/

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