The technique focuses on conservation agriculture, maintaining soil health, selecting crops with higher yield potential and greater resistance to climate change and efficient water management
What is Save and Grow?
Maize, rice and wheat, the world’s major cereals, can be grown in ways that take into account sustainability for a better future.
A book published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations advocates “Save and Grow” technique when it comes to farming.
According to the UN food agency, environmentally-friendly farming methods can take us to a more sustainable future, keeping in mind the sustainable development agenda of ending hunger and poverty by 2030.
“We need a global transition to a more resilient and sustainable agriculture that is less dependent on agrochemicals and draws more on natural biological and ecosystem processes,” FAO’s deputy director of plant production and protection division William Murray said.
It has been estimated that by 2050, the annual global demand for maize, rice and wheat will reach almost 3.3 billion tonnes (800 million tonnes).
According to Murray, reaching the target will be more difficult than in the past owing to widespread degradation of farmlands, increasing competition for land and water, stagnation in growth of cereal yields and the impacts of climate change (higher temperatures, intense droughts and flooding).
The “Save and Grow” practice consists of a set of techniques that advocate natural ecosystem processes to “produce more with less”.
The technique focuses on conservation agriculture, maintaining soil health, selecting crops with higher yield potential and greater resistance to climate change, efficient water management and pest control.
One such example practised in Asia (China) is the rice-fish farming system wherein farmers rear fish in flooded paddy fields.
While on the one hand, the fish can be sold for income or eaten for nutrition, on the other hand, growing fish along with rice helps in controlling fungi and weeds that damage the crop. It thus reduces the need to depend on pesticides.
“Rice-fish is a traditional system that has been largely replaced by intensive rice mono-cropping. We are now seeing, in countries like Indonesia, a revival of aquaculture in rice fields. What “Save and Grow” can contribute is better management of fish stocking and harvesting, which has been shown to increase fish production three times over and increase rice yields by 10 per cent,” Murray told Down To Earth.
Basically, what “Save and Grow” adds to traditional systems is new technologies and practices such as higher-yielding varieties, precision irrigation, needs-based fertilizer management, bio-pesticides and direct-seeding without soil tillage, the FAO agriculture expert added.
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