Value chain and policy interventions to accelerate zero-till adoption across the Indo-Gangetic Plains


In north-west India, crop residue burning is impacting severely on the environment and human health. It is estimated that some 35 million tonnes of rice crop residue is burned each year in both Haryana and Punjab, occurring within a narrow timeframe of twenty-five days or less. Crop residue burning contributes significantly to atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The World Health Organisation also estimates that in India alone 65,000 deaths per year are directly attributed to rice crop residue burning, while other impacts such as school closures, extended flight delays and regional transportation disruptions are also common.

Although the practice has been banned in India, enforcement is not common. Further, there are few practical agronomic alternatives for managing crop residues in the field. After stubble burning, farmers may also perform up to six tillage passes prior to sowing a wheat crop, resulting in declining soil health properties that include reduced soil structure, organic matter, plant nutrients and soil biota. However, zero-till (ZT) cultivation practices may offer a solution, if they can be properly supported with the involvement of private industry and public policy inputs. One special type of ZT seed drill, the Happy Seeder (HS), was developed for the north-west of India where standard ZT drills have difficulty sowing wheat crops into high levels of standing rice stubble. Yet to date, HS adoption by farmers has been slower than hoped, especially outside Haryana State, despite some degree of state government support, including subsidies on purchase price. Many farmers continue to burn rice stubble and cultivate soils prior to sowing wheat crops, foregoing increased farm income and creating the massive environmental costs described above.

Because we don’t know why farmers have not adopted HS technology, to encourage greater uptake of the machines this project is aimed at identifying adoption constraints, and any appropriate government or private support incentives. It is planned that the project outputs will thus inform better private investment and public policy to accelerate ZT/HS adoption across the Indo-Gangetic Plains.

More informationYou can learn more about the Happy Seeder technology and the driving factors behind its development in this short film from CIMMYT.

Project objectives

This project is aimed at accelerating the adoption of ZT seed drills (including the Australian-Indian designed Happy Seeder) to reduce crop residue burning and boost sustainable food energy water security across the Gangetic Plains of northern India. Specifically, this project will focus on addressing the following objectives:

  1. Understand the full range of stakeholder contexts associated with accelerated ZT seed drill adoption in each of the targeted states/regions.
  2. Improve knowledge and understanding of private sector and farmer constraints to ZT technology adoption, and opportunities for supporting accelerated adoption of ZT seed drills.
  3. Inform policy makers and private sector to help create a conducive environment for the accelerated adoption of ZT seed drills for Conservation Agriculture (CA) based sustainable intensification.

Project materials

Project factsheet:

Value chain and policy interventions to accelerate zero-till adoption across Indo-Gangetic plains

Policy brief:

Zero-till policy brief

Project partners

Some of the collaborating institutions include:

Funding: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) SRA – CSE/2017/101 (2018)


GFAR researchers involved in this project:

Tagged in Projects:International development, Completed projects