WA agricultural expertise aids Bangladeshi food security

March 29, 2017

Murdoch University has played a critical role in enhancing food security in Bangladesh

Western Australian innovation has helped to transform agricultural production in Bangladesh, through an international capacity building project to aid the adoption of more efficient, effective and sustainable farming systems.

The long-running Conservation Agriculture (CA) project, led by Murdoch University with support from the Department of Agriculture and Food and funds from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, will come to an end this March.

For the past five years, the CA project worked closely with the Bangladesh Agricultural University, government and non-government agencies and the private sector to replace traditional multiple cultivation practices with CA minimum tillage systems.

As a result, Bangladeshi farmers, who grow two to three rice and/or grain crops a year, have reduced production costs and water use, while increasing yields.

Project leader, Professor Richard Bell from Murdoch's School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, said the adoption of CA farming systems had enhanced the capabilities of Bangladeshi farmers to meet the challenges of feeding an increasing population.

“With a population of 164 million people, which is expected to reach 205 million by 2050, it is essential for Bangladesh to improve overall land use sustainability, while decreasing production costs to increase farm profitability,” Professor Bell said.

“The adoption of CA principles has improved soil fertility and soil moisture use, while more Bangladeshi farmers are now using herbicides effectively to control weeds.

“Together these measures have reduced the turnaround time between crops and greenhouse gas emission, while boosting crop yields up to 20 per cent.

“The integration of mechanised planting has reduced fuel costs by 65 per cent and labour costs by 30 per cent.”

The up-take of a range of minimum tillage planters to operate on the back of the two-wheel tractors has been a key achievement of the project.

The project also facilitated the formation of a network of farmers, service providers, extension officers, non-government organisations and machinery manufacturers across the country to accelerate the adoption of farm machinery and CA practices.

The Department of Agriculture and Food provided agronomic advice to the project on the ramifications of changing from a multiple to a minimum tillage farming system.

Principal research officer Abul Hashem and his colleague Ross Brennan contributed to the development of a CA agronomic package for the Bangladeshi farmers, which incorporates information on weed and plant nutrition management.

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