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Adoption and impacts of zero tillage as a resource conserving technology in the irrigated plains of South Asia

Olaf Erenstein (), Umar Farooq, R.K. Malik and Muhammad Sharif

No 91816, IWMI Research Reports from International Water Management Institute

Abstract: The recent stagnation of productivity growth in the irrigated areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia has led to a quest for resource-conserving technologies that can save water, reduce production costs and improve production. The present synthesis of two detailed country studies confirmed widespread adoption of zero tillage (ZT) wheat in the rice-wheat systems of India’s Haryana State (34.5% of surveyed households) and Pakistan’s Punjab province (19%). The combination of a significant “yield effect” and “cost-saving effect” makes adoption worthwhile and is the main driver behind the rapid spread and widespread acceptance of ZT in Haryana, India. In Punjab, Pakistan, adoption is driven by the significant ZT-induced cost savings for wheat cultivation. Thus, the prime driver for ZT adoption is not water savings or natural resource conservation but monetary gain in both sites. Water savings are only a potential added benefit. ZT adoption for wheat has accelerated from insignificant levels from 2000 onwards in both sites. Geographic penetration of ZT is far from uniform, suggesting the potential for further diffusion, particularly in Haryana, India. Diffusion seems to have stagnated in the Punjab study area, and further follow-up studies are needed to confirm this. The study also revealed significant dis-adoption of ZT in the survey year: Punjab, Pakistan 14 percent and Haryana, India 10 percent. Better understanding the rationale for dis-adoption merits further scrutiny. Our findings suggest that there is no clear single overarching constraint but that a combination of factors is at play, including technology performance, technology access, seasonal constraints and, particularly in the case of Punjab, Pakistan, the institutional ZT controversy. In terms of technology performance, the relative ZT yield was particularly influential: dis-adopters of ZT reporting low ZT yields as a major contributor to farmer disillusionment in Punjab, Pakistan and the lack of a significant yield effect in Haryana, India. In neither site did the ZT-induced time savings in land preparation translate into timelier establishment, contributing to the general lack of a yield increase. Knowledge blockages, resource constraints and ZT drill cost and availability all contributed to nonadoption. This suggests that there is potential to further enhance access to this technology and thereby its penetration. The study highlights that in both Haryana, India and Punjab, Pakistan ZT has been primarily adopted by the larger and more productive farmers. The structural differences between the adopters and non-adopters/dis-adopters in terms of resource base, crop management and performance thereby easily confound the assessment of ZT impact across adoption categories. This calls for the comparison of the ZT plots and conventional tillage plots on adopter farms. ZT-induced effects primarily apply to the establishment and production costs of the wheat crop. Both the Haryana, India and Punjab, Pakistan studies confirmed significant ZT-induced resource-saving effects in farmers’ fields in terms of diesel and tractor time for wheat cultivation. Water savings are, however, less pronounced than expected from on-farm trial data. It was only in Haryana, India that there were significant ZT induced water savings in addition to significant yield enhancement. The higher yield and water savings in Haryana, India result in significantly Abstract vi higher water productivity indicators for ZT wheat. In both sites, there are limited implications for the overall wheat crop management, the subsequent rice crop and the rice-wheat system as a whole. The ZT-induced yield enhancement and cost savings provide a much needed boost to the returns to, and competitiveness of, wheat cultivation in Haryana, India. In Punjab, Pakistan, ZT is primarily a cost-saving technology. Based on these findings the study provides a number of recommendations for research and development in South Asia’s rice-wheat systems.

Keywords: Agribusiness; Crop Production/Industries; Environmental Economics and Policy; Farm Management; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Food Security and Poverty; Land Economics/Use; Production Economics; Productivity Analysis; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy; Risk and Uncertainty (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2007
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Working Paper: Adoption and impacts of zero tillage as a resource conserving technology in the irrigated plains of South Asia (2007) Downloads
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:iwmirr:91816

DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.91816

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