Agriculture and Environment II

By Mr. Anjanabha Bhattacharya, PhD



My last blogpost focused on the ways agriculture is reinventing itself and re-looking at land utilisation as two ways of conserving environment. Through this blogpost, I would like to bring your attention to the other important ways, in which, agriculture is helping environment friendly innovations.



Traditionally, there has been a particular pattern of know how related to crop production, also known as indigenous knowledge (IK). IK has been recorded through series of hit and misses, i.e. through experience over years, by the ancient agricultural community and passed through generations and used widely by farmers to grow crops. Now, in addition to IK, farmers are experimenting with new age technologies. They are looking at ways for better utilising scare resources. Farmers have also started experimenting with cropping patterns (mix of legume and non-legume crops) and hybrid seeds. Rotational cropping is one example. If the same crop is grown repeatedly, it drains soil of its vital nutrients. However, if the crops are rotated, they replenish the soil of its lost nutrients. Another example, involves creating new crop species and not just varieties, for example, cross-breeding perennial wheat (Secale cereal), which is created through crossbreeding of conventional wheat with perennial grasses (rye).



Modern gene technologies have been a game changer which, helped improve the quality of the crop, by re-inventing improved seeds. As the technology is advancing fast, its output is multiplying and each new crop variety is found better their predecessors in several aspects.



However, innovation is not an end in itself, and not just limited to crop plants. In fact, innovation is spread in other related areas of agriculture, such as diary science and aquaculture. For example, in the USA, many progressive farmers are looking at novel ways of breeding cattle for increased milk production per animal, thus reducing carbon footprint and conserving environment. Worldwide, fishermen are using innovative ways of undertaking targeted fishing by selecting specific size of individual species. Also, by avoiding breeding season, they are able to harvest bounty for rest of the year. Modern fishing equipments including sonar are helping commercial fishing industry, and also at the same time protecting environment. Something, I will call socio-environmental responsibility.



In a nutshell, the point I am trying to make, is that innovation is helping the entire chain of agriculture and allied sectors to adapt to day to day challenges, by reducing wastage and creating sustainable practices. However, we cannot rest on our own laurels and need to experiment with newly evolving innovations to address our ever increasing complex environmental problems. It’s the only earth we have, and we are duty bound to pass on the legacy to generations to come, in the same way, we have inherited from our ancestors by protecting our natural environment.