Agricultural Practices

Regenerative Agricultural Practices for Decarbonization

With the average global temperature set to reach 1.5 °C as early as 2027, there is an urgent need to amplify decarbonization efforts. cost-effective regenerative agricultural practices when coupled with community involvement have the potential to promote decarbonization at scale.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, Countries pledged to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5 °C. However, recent reports such as the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update 2023-2027 and the State of Global Climate 2022 by the WMO indicate that the global average temperature may reach the 1.5°C mark as early as 2027. In light of this, there is an urgent need to amplify Decarbonization efforts.

Decarbonization involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and also absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in agricultural lands and forests. India is the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the U.S. and Indian agriculture contributes about 15% to India’s GHG emissions. Agriculture is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. With the national carbon market and green credit system still in nascent stages, in my experience, working at Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, I have seen cost-effective measures and community involvement act as greater incentives for the quick adoption of agricultural practices that support decarbonisation. The foundation is able to scale up low-cost regenerative agriculture practices rapidly owing to a community-led extension model, offsetting a sizable portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are a few efficient and scalable practices that aid in decarbonization:

Zero Tillage:
Zero tillage, a conservation farming technique, significantly reduces emissions by eliminating or minimizing the need for conventional ploughing. This practice reduces soil disturbance, which helps preserve soil carbon and organic matter. As a result, fewer greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are released into the atmosphere.

Cover Crops: Cover crops play a vital role in reducing emissions by keeping the soil covered year-round, preventing soil erosion and retaining soil carbon. These crops capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus mitigating its release. Moreover, cover crops enhance soil health, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can generate emissions during their production and application.

Crop Rotation: crop rotation disrupts pest and disease cycles, reducing the necessity for chemical interventions, thereby reducing emissions during their production and application.

Agroforestry: Agroforestry is a potent tool for emissions reduction in agriculture. By integrating trees and shrubs with traditional crops, it sequesters carbon in both vegetation and soil, acting as a carbon sink.

Biochar Application: Produced from organic materials through a process called pyrolysis, biochar locks carbon in a stable form, preventing its release into the atmosphere. When added to soil, it enhances its fertility and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.

I come from an agricultural household and I’ve witnessed firsthand the detrimental impact of shifting climate patterns on our farming community. Regenerative agricultural techniques offer farmers a promising avenue to enhance agricultural sustainability, nurture soil health, boost biodiversity, and champion the crucial cause of decarbonization. Non-profit organizations are poised to assume a pivotal role in facilitating this transition towards environmentally responsible farming practices. With support from think tanks, local governments and institutional funding partners the transition can happen at a faster rate.

Abhishek Raj | Deputy Manager – MITRA & ACE

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