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Soil management and crop nutrition of pulse crops in Bangladesh

Project summary

The north-western (NW) region of Bangladesh is the poorest region of the country with regular food shortages and dietary imbalances. There is little production of pulses in the region despite an apparently suitable climate and much fallow land charged with residual soil moisture after harvest of monsoon rice. We propose a targeted programme to increase the production of chickpea and lentils in the High Barind Tract (HBT) and two districts in the northern Rajshahi Division to enhance income generation, improve human health and contribute to cropping system sustainability.

To achieve this, bottleneck constraints will be addressed. Major socio-economic constraints include farmer-perceived “risks” in relation to timeliness of crop planting, lack of farmer awareness of required and available technology, and scarcity of seed of improved varieties. Major biophysical constraints are acid soil problems and poor seedling establishment due to inadequate seed and fertilizer placement techniques with existing tillage options. Some overlapping constraints also impact on the pulse industry in Australia and it is proposed that synergies could be gained by jointly addressing them.

The principal aim of this project is to improve livelihoods of the rural population in NW Bangladesh through increased production of rabi (winter) pulses. The project objectives are:

  • To assemble, improve and disseminate packages of best practices for chickpea cultivation to new areas in the HBT;
  • To expand cultivation of winter pulses into the northern Rajshahi Division as represented by Dinajpur and Thakurgaon Districts;
  • To develop, test and disseminate power tiller mounted drills to appropriately place seed of pulses and required fertilizer in the seedbed; and
  • To assess the benefits of deep placement of fertilizers for pulse crops and their variation with soil, time of placement, row spacing, and season.

Interactive partnerships across the research-to-adoption spectrum are required to enable existing and evolving technical information to be adopted by resource-poor farmers. A critical element of the partnership is that research organizations work jointly with extension agencies, farmers, local business, and carry out research predominantly in farmers’ fields. For this project it is proposed that the relevant primary research organizations are BARC, BARI, CIMMYT-Bangladesh, the School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food.

The relevant extension-oriented organizations are the two NGOs, PROVA and RDRS, and the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). The project will build on work of recent projects in the target area, carrying forward applied research and on-farm evaluation as required, but focus on dissemination of information to resource-poor farmers so as to achieve early impacts. The research emphasis will be on testing and developing new zero-till or minimum-till planters mounted on power-tillers to enable the timely and more widespread planting of legumes. Farmer participation in all aspects of the work will be encouraged so that they perceive ownership of emerging technologies and adopt them.

To ensure participation of women, training activities will be focused on families. Business Development Services methodology will be used to ensure understanding of linkages and identification of bottlenecks throughout the pulses sub-sector, including emerging farm machinery businesses.

Successful implementation of the project will substantially increase income of participating households. Adoption of pulse cultivation over the 4 years of the project is predicted to be worth A$0.72m. Income to resource-poor households due to additional chickpea and lentil cultivation at projected ceiling levels of adoption, from about 15 years, is expected to be about A$ 52m per annum. Increased rabi pulse cultivation and availability will also improve human health and cropping system sustainability in NW Bangladesh. Research conducted within the project is expected to advance basic understanding so as to facilitate development of improved technology for pulses cultivation in both countries. There will also be important capacity building outcomes, as training will be a major component of the project: in situ training in legume technologies and methodologies of dissemination to resource-poor rural households in Bangladesh and training for Bangladeshi subject matter specialists in Australia.