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Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Mar;22(3):1054-74. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13143. Epub 2015 Dec 14.

Agronomic improvements can make future cereal systems in South Asia far more productive and result in a lower environmental footprint.

Author information

  • 1IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), 1st Floor, CG Block, NASC Complex, DPS Marg, Pusa, New Delhi, 110 012, India.
  • 2IRRI, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila 1301, Philippines.
  • 3Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, UK.
  • 4CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), Dhaka Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • 5Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa Campus, New Delhi, 110 012, India.
  • 6Biostatistics Unit, Universitaet Hohenheim, 70593, Stuttgart, Germany.
  • 7IRRI, Bangladesh Office, House-9, Road 2/2, Banani, Dhaka, 1213, Bangladesh.
  • 8Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa, Samastipur, Bihar, 848 125, India.
  • 9Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, Aduthurai, Thanjavur 612 101, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • 10Indian Agriculture Statistical Research Institute, Library Avenue, Pusa, New Delhi, 110 012, India.
  • 11Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Zarifa Farm, Kachhwa Road, Karnal, 132 001, Haryana, India.
  • 12ICAR Parisar, P.O. Bihar Veterinary College, ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Patna, 800 014, Bihar, India.
  • 13Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Gazipur, 1701, Bangladesh.
  • 14Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Gazipur, 1701, Bangladesh.


South Asian countries will have to double their food production by 2050 while using resources more efficiently and minimizing environmental problems. Transformative management approaches and technology solutions will be required in the major grain-producing areas that provide the basis for future food and nutrition security. This study was conducted in four locations representing major food production systems of densely populated regions of South Asia. Novel production-scale research platforms were established to assess and optimize three futuristic cropping systems and management scenarios (S2, S3, S4) in comparison with current management (S1). With best agronomic management practices (BMPs), including conservation agriculture (CA) and cropping system diversification, the productivity of rice- and wheat-based cropping systems of South Asia increased substantially, whereas the global warming potential intensity (GWPi) decreased. Positive economic returns and less use of water, labor, nitrogen, and fossil fuel energy per unit food produced were achieved. In comparison with S1, S4, in which BMPs, CA and crop diversification were implemented in the most integrated manner, achieved 54% higher grain energy yield with a 104% increase in economic returns, 35% lower total water input, and a 43% lower GWPi. Conservation agriculture practices were most suitable for intensifying as well as diversifying wheat-rice rotations, but less so for rice-rice systems. This finding also highlights the need for characterizing areas suitable for CA and subsequent technology targeting. A comprehensive baseline dataset generated in this study will allow the prediction of extending benefits to a larger scale.


South Asia; best management practices; cereal productivity; cereals systems; conservation agriculture; crop diversification; global warming potential; rice-based cropping system

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