Top scientists from international agricultural institutes are heralding a new system of farming based on using fertilizer trees to increase crop yield.

The new system, which was inspired by small time farmers in Africa who grew the Acacia, could provide a solution to dwindling paddy production in India and will help mitigate climate change, they say.

“The Acacia tree has been used by farmers for centuries. We started doing research on it to find out how much it benefits the crop and it’s quite staggering. If millions of farmers are growing it, and if the science is showing how valuable it is, why are we not making clear that this is useful for other farmers?” said Dennis Garrity, Director General of the Narobi-based World Agroforestry Centre, who is at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation to foster an exchange between African and Indian agricultural specialists.

Scientists discovered that the Acacia tree holds the same amount of nitrogen in its leaves as three bags of commercial fertilizer. When the tree drops its leaves crop size can improve by as much as 150 per cent, Dr. Garrity said. This limits fertilizer usage, stores more carbon on land and provides animal feed, fuel and timber to the farmer. Farming systems like these also have longer growing seasons and better resistance to drought.

The African Acacia is similar to a number of native Indian trees and trial results across six states have had very positive results, Dr. Garrity said.

More importantly, research is beginning on a new type of tree that is adapted to standing water and can be planted in rice fields.

Nine-point action plan

The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation on Friday issued a nine-point plan of action following the release of the Chennai declaration on Biodiversity on Wednesday. It aims to create a “Climate cum Gene Care” movement that will integrate government departments, strengthen farming and tribal communities, refocus research priorities, and promote climate resilient farming systems.