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Cropping systems and crop residue management in the Trans-Gangetic Plains: Issues and challenges for conservation agriculture from village surveys


  • Erenstein, Olaf


Conservation agriculture practices are being advocated to help sustain crop productivity gains and secure environmental sustainability in the Trans-Gangetic Plains, India's Green Revolution heartland. The paper illustrates the use of village surveys as a quasi-quantitative system analysis tool to derive implications for agricultural research and development. Drawing from village surveys in 170 communities, the paper assesses current crop residue management practices in Punjab and Haryana's rice-wheat, basmati-wheat and non-rice-wheat cropping systems. The prevalence of wheat as the winter crop implies an intensive collection, trading and use of wheat straw as basal feed for dairy livestock; which contrasts with the diverse crop residue management of the monsoon crops. The increased use of combine harvesters has spurred the rapid advent of mechanical wheat straw reapers whereas the bulk of combine harvested rice straw is burned in situ. Present crop residue management practices are largely incompatible with year-round mulch retention despite significant biomass production. The research and development community faces the challenge of evening out straw use and management over seasons to ensure at least partial residue retention if its calls for conservation agriculture in this important sub-region are to succeed. The paper also reiterates the worrying decline of groundwater tables associated with the rice-wheat system.

Suggested Citation

  • Erenstein, Olaf, 2011. "Cropping systems and crop residue management in the Trans-Gangetic Plains: Issues and challenges for conservation agriculture from village surveys," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(1), pages 54-62, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:104:y:2011:i:1:p:54-62

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ambast, S.K. & Tyagi, N.K. & Raul, S.K., 2006. "Management of declining groundwater in the Trans Indo-Gangetic Plain (India): Some options," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 279-296, April.
    2. Fujisaka, Sam & Harrington, Larry & Hobbs, Peter, 1994. "Rice-Wheat in South Asia: Systems and long-term priorities established through diagnostic research," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 169-187.
    3. Olaf Erenstein & William Thorpe, 2010. "Crop–livestock interactions along agro-ecological gradients: a meso-level analysis in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, India," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 12(5), pages 669-689, October.
    4. Erenstein, Olaf, 2009. "Comparing water management in rice-wheat production systems in Haryana, India and Punjab, Pakistan," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 96(12), pages 1799-1806, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:rensus:v:81:y:2018:i:p1:p:693-706 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Nhamo, Nhamo & Rodenburg, Jonne & Zenna, Negussie & Makombe, Godswill & Luzi-Kihupi, Ashura, 2014. "Narrowing the rice yield gap in East and Southern Africa: Using and adapting existing technologies," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 45-55.
    3. Komarek, Adam M. & Li, LingLing & Bellotti, William D., 2015. "Whole-farm economic and risk effects of conservation agriculture in a crop-livestock system in western China," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 220-226.
    4. Tittonell, Pablo & Gérard, Bruno & Erenstein, Olaf, 2015. "Tradeoffs around crop residue biomass in smallholder crop-livestock systems – What’s next?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 119-128.
    5. Naudin, K. & Bruelle, G. & Salgado, P. & Penot, E. & Scopel, E. & Lubbers, M. & de Ridder, N. & Giller, K.E., 2015. "Trade-offs around the use of biomass for livestock feed and soil cover in dairy farms in the Alaotra lake region of Madagascar," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 36-47.
    6. Pannell, David J. & Llewellyn, Rick S. & Corbeels, Marc, 2013. "The farm-level economics of conservation agriculture for resource-poor farmers," Working Papers 166526, University of Western Australia, School of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    7. Komarek, Adam M., 2013. "Costs and benefits of crop residue retention in a Chinese subsistence farming system," 2013 Conference (57th), February 5-8, 2013, Sydney, Australia 152197, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.


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