1. Agriculture World

Tata-Cornell Institute Launches an Initiative to Achieve Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon Food Systems

Researchers will create a roadmap of mitigation methods based on that analysis in order to reduce emissions without sacrificing productivity. The roadmap, while tailored to India's agricultural sector, will serve as a model for other developing countries.

Shivam Dwivedi
Agriculture Field
Agriculture Field

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) has launched a new initiative to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the nutritional needs of growing populations. The two-year research project will develop precise and accurate metrics for measuring the emissions of India's various agricultural production systems.

Researchers will create a roadmap of mitigation methods based on that analysis in order to reduce emissions without sacrificing productivity. The roadmap, while tailored to India's agricultural sector, will serve as a model for other developing countries.

"Climate change and malnutrition are two of the world's most pressing issues, and they are inextricably linked," TCI Director Prabhu Pingali said. "We have the potential to achieve a zero-hunger, zero-carbon food system by holistically assessing the challenges of increasing agricultural productivity and reducing emissions."

Each year, agriculture and related activities account for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. India, after China and the United States, is the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Under the Paris Climate Accord, it has committed to reducing emissions by 33-35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The country's simultaneous need to address widespread malnutrition among its growing population complicates the task. Agriculture accounts for nearly 20% of India's emissions, with livestock and rice cultivation being the most significant contributors. Agricultural emissions increased by 25% between 1990 and 2014. Providing adequate nutrition for the country's growing population will necessitate the intensification and diversification of agricultural production, which will result in even higher emissions.

TCI researchers will create an emissions reduction roadmap using a combination of data, field research, and consultations with policymakers and other stakeholders. They will identify the primary production, nutrition, and emissions challenges facing India's agricultural sector in the first stage of the project, as well as measure emissions associated with various types of production systems, such as rice and wheat, livestock, and horticulture.

If no action is taken, they will also forecast future emissions levels. They'll then identify potential mitigation strategies for each production system and simulate the emissions reductions that would result from putting them in place.

Diversifying production systems away from cereals, changing livestock management practices, and utilizing carbon sinks are all possible mitigation strategies.

Because small and marginal farms dominate agriculture in India and the developing world, the researchers will take special care to ensure that their recommendations are practical for smallholder farmers to implement and do not harm them. "The livelihoods of smallholders must be central to our decision-making as we seek to make food production more sustainable," Pingali said.

"Climate change has an impact on almost every field of study," said Pingali. "As researchers, we must account for the effects of a changing climate and do our part to help stop the rise in temperatures as we work to improve nutrition outcomes and livelihoods in the developing world."

TCI Assistant Director Mathew Abraham and faculty fellows Harold van Es and Andrew MacDonald, both of the School of Integrative Plant Science in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will lead the research project alongside Pingali. Milorad Plavsic, TCI's director of strategic initiatives, and Mario Herrero, a professor in CALS' Department of Global Development, will also contribute. Bhaskar Mittra, TCI Associate Director, will oversee operations in India, with help from the Institute's Center of Excellence in New Delhi.

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