Devising Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices for the World's Dry Areas

Somanagouda B. Patil

My name is Somanagouda B. Patil, and I’m an Indian citizen currently working at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Rabat, Morocco. 

Since April, I’ve been a visting scholar in the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (C-MASC) in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences through the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. Under the supervision of Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and Director of C-MASC, I am researching the impact of climate-smart agricultural practices on soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.

I received my Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad; my Master of Science in Agronomy from UAS-Bangalore; and my PhD in Agronomy from UAS-Dharwad and sandwich program with ICRISAT-India.

As a professional currently working in the field of agronomy and natural resource management, I understand the urgent need for innovative research to mitigate the alarming effects of climate change. It is with this realization that I found my calling. With a firm belief in the importance of sustainable agriculture, I’m conducting my research here at Ohio State on climate-smart agriculture, with a particular focus on conservation agriculture (no-tillage).

patilResearching how climate-smart agricultural practices impact soil respiration and carbon stability is critical because serious problems of land degradation, declining soil quality, reduced soil fertility, frequent drought, and low agricultural production levels persist in the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region. This is primarily due to years of inappropriate agricultural practices and climate change, the latter of which has further exacerbated these problems. While past agricultural research focused mainly on testing cropping systems under conventional soil management, this research may no longer be relevant to the adaptation and mitigation of the present changing climate. Most of WANA’s soil need improved management practices such as no-tillage with stubble retention to ensure resilient and sustainable agricultural production.

Working in both field and laboratory settings here at Ohio State, I am monitoring greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. CO2, CH4 and NO2), analyzing soil C and N stock, microbial biomass C and soil physical properties like aggregate stability, saturated hydraulic conductivity, intrinsic permeability, pore size distribution, moisture characteristics, bulk density, porosity, and tensile strength.

Through this Borlaug Fellowship, I am learning new dimensions of agronomic research. I am gaining experience in collaborating with other seasoned scientists, and improving my knowledge of climate-smart agriculture practices. My research experience at Ohio State  has undoubtedly been a significant step towards achieving my long-term professional and personal goals. This program will not only broaden my knowledge, but also my professional network, which is an exceptional opportunity for the horizontal exchange of experience and technical knowledge.

patil 2After the Borlaug Fellowship Program concludes and I return to Morocco, I will be in a stronger position to begin research activities on climate-smart agriculture and to disseminate the technologies to international partners throughout the WANA region. Furthermore, I expect that this research will directly benefit farming communities by demonstrating the benefits of soil and water conservation and increasing crop yields in a region that is vulnerable to food insecurity and climate change.

My work will also introduce scientific and technical understandings into new contexts and to new researchers. Within academia, research on climate-smart practices is not only relevant to professional scientists, but also to students. The goal is to engage a wider audience of practicing scientists and farmers who want to understand how climate-smart agricultural practices will contribute to achieving sustainability in agriculture production. This research also serves as a key mechanism of collaboration between ICARDA and many U.S. Land Grant Universities, like The Ohio State University.

I wish to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their support for my program through the Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship and the The Ohio State University for hosting me for this fellowship program. Special thanks to Dr. Lal and the C-MASC team for their continuous support for my research, as well at the Office of International Programs in Agriculture for their management of my program.