Bihar can make significant progress toward its goal of sustainable development by implementing three transformative technologies in the state’s agricultural sector, according to the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) at Cornell University.

In a special policy brief, TCI showed that Bihar can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with rice and livestock production, while maintaining or even improving productivity. The policy brief presents research conducted as part of TCI’s project on Zero Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems. The project aims to create a roadmap for reducing agricultural emissions in Bihar without sacrificing productivity. Bihar could reduce emissions by 9.4-11.2 tonnes each year by adopting alternate wetting and drying for paddy cultivation, advanced artificial insemination for cattle breeding, and anti-methanogenic feed supplements in its livestock sector, it said.

“As India confronts the twin challenges of reducing hunger and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, there is a real danger that efforts to achieve one goal will undermine the other,” said TCI Director Prabhu Pingal, a professor in the Charles H Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, with an appointment in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Our research shows that alternate wetting and drying, advanced breeding techniques, and anti-methanogenic feeds can help Bihar to lower its agricultural emissions without damaging productivity.”

Paddy cultivation

Globally, 50% of emissions from croplands come from flooded paddy cultivation, which creates methane through the decomposition of organic materials. India, which produces 22 per cent of the world’s rice, is the leading emitter of rice-related methane. TCI research shows that alternate wetting and drying, a controlled irrigation technology that uses less water than continuous flooding, has the potential to reduce emissions associated with paddy cultivation by 3.96 tonnes annually by 2050, assuming a 70 per cent adoption rate.

The policy brief presents a breakdown of emissions reductions for each of Bihar’s four agroclimatic zones. For alternate wetting and drying, Bihar’s southwest and northwest zones have the highest potential mitigation levels. “Agricultural land in Bihar is quite diverse, necessitating interventions tailored to the context of different regions,” said Milord Plavsic, TCI’s manager for strategic initiatives and project lead for Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems. “By providing regional mitigation estimates, we can help policymakers direct resources to the areas where they can have the most impact.”

Artificial insemination

TCI’s research also shows that considerable emissions reductions can be achieved in Bihar’s livestock sector. The State is projected to have a cattle population of 46 million by 2050, by which time emissions from cattle are projected to reach 52-61 tonnes. Advanced artificial insemination and the use of anti-methanogenic feed supplements can reduce those emissions by 5.4-7.2 tonnes per year.

Advanced artificial insemination through the use of sex-sorted semen can allow farmers to improve productivity while maintaining smaller herd sizes, reducing overall emissions. TCI research shows that improved productivity among dairy cows should yield farmers ₹20.75 crore in additional income by 2050. Anti-methanogenic feeds supplements, such as Harit Dhara, which was commercialized in the early 2020s, reduce the methane produced by cows during digestion.

The projections were calculated 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, it said