Using surface water to irrigate will decrease the strain on groundwater and reduce the threat of arsenic among other threats
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) issued a press release saying Bangladesh’s unique food security challenges have led scientists to develop alternative methods for increasing food production through double cropping.
The CIMMYT reports the Bangladesh government has already requested investment funds for putting the innovations to use.
— CIMMYT (@CIMMYT) March 21, 2017
One of the innovations that scientists at CIMMYT made specifically for Bangladesh has to do with using surface water for irrigation, since in Bangladesh, “ground water extraction can result in high energy costs and in some areas can present a health risk due to natural arsenic contamination of groundwater,” said Timothy Krupnik, systems agronomist at CIMMYT.
Krupnik said: “Overall, increasing maize and wheat production through double cropping could generate revenues from $36-$108m each year for farmers.”
Double cropping means growing at least two crops per year on the same plot of land and it is in line with sustainable intensification techniques, that is, it boosts production without encroaching on more land.
The CIMMYT says yields of major cereal crops in South Asia have not changed much since the Green Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, and although Bangladesh is already practicing double cropping in the northwestern parts of the country, increasing demand for food means the practice has to be expanded.
Scientists at CIMMYT are using satellite data “to identify areas that are under low input and output crop production in a region with abundant surface water,” said Urs Schulthess, CIMMYT’s remote sensing scientist.
“This is an example of sustainable intensification that does not deplete water resources,” Schulthess added, which is especially important in light of a Unicef report published on World Water Day 2017 that highlighted the climate change-induced water crisis in Bangladesh and worldwide unless due measures are taken.
— World Bank Pubs (@WBPubs) March 22, 2017
The government has proposed a policy to help farmers transition from rice-fallow or rain-fed systems to surface water irrigation and double cropping, given the benefits of the latter. The government has asked for $500m investment in development aid for this purpose, as part of an overall request for over $7bn to support agricultural development in southern Bangladesh, the article said.
CIMMYT’s analysis provides evidence to support the government’s initiative as it estimates that converting fallow or low-intensity land to irrigated crops would increase output. However, the increase in output varies for each of the three most important cereals in Bangladesh – rice, maize and wheat – with the largest gains accruing to maize production and the least to rice.