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Transformative Agricultural Technologies Can Drive Sustainable Development in Bihar, Study Finds

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) recommends adopting advanced agricultural technologies in Bihar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve productivity.

Saurabh Shukla
Transformative Agricultural Technologies Can Propel Bihar Toward Sustainable Development, Study Finds (Photo Source: Pexels)
Transformative Agricultural Technologies Can Propel Bihar Toward Sustainable Development, Study Finds (Photo Source: Pexels)

Bihar can significantly advance its sustainable development goals by adopting three transformative technologies in the agricultural sector, according to the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI). A recent policy brief from TCI outlines how these technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice and livestock production while maintaining or even enhancing productivity.

This research is part of TCI's "Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems" project, which aims to create a roadmap for reducing agricultural emissions in Bihar without compromising productivity. Currently, agriculture accounts for 20% of India's greenhouse gas emissions. The country also faces high malnutrition rates, particularly in Bihar, where almost half of children under five are stunted and underweight.

TCI's findings suggest that Bihar could cut emissions by 9.4-11.2 metric tons annually through the adoption of alternate wetting and drying (AWD) for paddy cultivation, advanced artificial insemination for cattle breeding, and anti-methanogenic feed supplements in livestock.

"As India tackles the dual challenges of reducing hunger and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, there is a risk that achieving one goal might hinder the other," said TCI Director Prabhu Pingali. "Our research indicates that AWD, advanced breeding techniques, and anti-methanogenic feeds can help Bihar reduce its agricultural emissions without harming productivity."

Globally, 50% of emissions from croplands stem from flooded paddy fields, which produce methane as organic materials decompose. India, the world's leading emitter of rice-related methane, produces 22% of global rice. TCI research demonstrates that AWD, a controlled irrigation technology that uses less water than continuous flooding, could cut emissions from paddy cultivation by 3.96 metric tons annually by 2050 if adopted by 70% of farmers.

The policy brief provides detailed emission reduction estimates for each of Bihar's four agroclimatic zones. The southwest and northwest zones show the highest potential for mitigation through AWD.

"Agricultural land in Bihar varies greatly, requiring tailored interventions for different regions," explained Milorad Plavsic, TCI's manager for strategic initiatives and project lead for Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems. "By offering regional mitigation estimates, we can help policymakers allocate resources to areas where they will be most effective."

Significant emissions reductions are also possible in Bihar's livestock sector. By 2050, the state is expected to have a cattle population of 46 million, with projected emissions of 52-61 metric tons. Advanced artificial insemination and anti-methanogenic feed supplements could reduce these emissions by 5.4-7.2 metric tons annually.

Advanced artificial insemination using sex-sorted semen can enhance productivity while reducing herd sizes, thus lowering overall emissions. TCI research projects that improved dairy cow productivity could bring farmers an additional INR 207.5 million in income by 2050. Anti-methanogenic feed supplements, like Harit Dhara, which was commercialized in the early 2020s, reduce methane production during cow digestion.

These projections were developed by TCI in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, using the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security's Mitigation Options Tool for Agriculture. TCI researchers also conducted workshops and field visits in Bihar to identify suitable mitigation strategies.

In the next phase of the Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems project, TCI is partnering with local stakeholders to assess the feasibility of several interventions and gather evidence to scale them up through existing state programs. Researchers are focusing on reducing cattle herd sizes and emissions via sex-sorted semen and anti-methanogenic feeds; optimizing water and nutrient usage in rice production through integrated practices, including AWD; and implementing agrivoltaics to produce both solar power and food on the same land.

"With climate change impacts becoming more pronounced each year, India must tackle the issue with the same urgency as it addresses hunger," Pingali emphasized. "By focusing on the viability of current technologies, we aim to provide policymakers in Bihar and across India with the evidence needed to implement effective solutions now."

(Data Source: TCI)

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