It is well-established that climate change is aided by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. India is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States. India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2018, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. This accounts for 7 per cent of global GHG emissions. Agriculture and livestock account for 18 per cent of gross national emissions.
A majority of agricultural GHG emissions occur at the primary production stage and are generated through the production and use of agricultural inputs (mainly water, fertilisers, and pesticides) farm machinery, soil disturbance, residue management and irrigation.
While the agriculture sector is responsible for climate change due to GHG emissions, it is also severely impacted by the effects of changing climate. Climate change is threatening India’s agricultural growth with frequent dry spells, heat waves and erratic rainfall. With increasing population and the need to enhance food production, one has to address the challenge of meeting the growing demand for food production while controlling and reducing the GHG emissions from agriculture.
A study by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) pointed out that India has the potential to cut 18 per cent of its annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and livestock sector. The study estimated that 50 per cent of this reduction could be achieved by implementing these three measures: Efficient use of fertiliser, adoption of zero-tillage and management of water used to irrigate paddy.
Concepts such as Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA), which seek to optimise the use of locally available resources replacing external inputs is receiving increased attention as a sustainable alternative to chemical farming. The Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) concept introduced in Andhra Pradesh in 2015 is a low-input, climate-resilient type of farming that encourages farmers to use low-cost locally sourced inputs. It eliminates the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.