Designing profitable, resource use efficient and environmentally sound cereal based systems for the Western Indo-Gangetic plains
In the western Indo-Gangetic plains, issues of deterioration in soil, water, and environment quality coupled with low profitability jeopardize the sustainability of the dominant rice-wheat (RW) system. To address these issues, crop diversification and conservation agriculture (CA)-based management hold considerable promise but the adoption of both approaches has been low, and additional evidence generation from a multi-criteria productivity and sustainability perspective is likely required to help drive the change. Compared to prevailing farmers’ practice (FP), results suggest that CA-based rice management increased profitability by 13% and energy use efficiency (EUE) by 21% while reducing irrigation by 19% and global warming potential (GWP) by 28%. By substituting CA-based maize for rice, similar mean profitability gains were realized (16%) but transformative improvements in irrigation (-84%), EUE (+231%), and GWP (-95%) were observed compared to FP. Inclusion of mungbean in the rotation (i.e. maize-wheat-mungbean) with CA-based management increased the system productivity, profitability, and EUE by 11, 25 and 103%, respectively while decreasing irrigation water use by 64% and GWP by 106% compared to FP. Despite considerable benefits from the CA-based maize-wheat system, adoption of maize is not widespread due to uneven market demand and assured price guarantees for rice.