International Congress brings together leaders in conservation
Advocates of conservation agriculture from around the world exchanged insights on using conservation ag to feeding a growing world population during a global agricultural conference held June 22-25.
The 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture (WCCA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, focused on practical conservation applications and techniques that will help conserve soil, water and other natural resources, as well as provide economic returns. Farmers, researchers, educators, agricultural company representatives, government representatives and others from 47 countries shared ideas on the opportunities and challenges they face in conservation agriculture. Countries represented included Australia, England, France, Argentina, several African countries and more.
Hosted by the Conservation Agriculture Systems Alliance, a network of conservation agriculture organizations across North America, with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) taking the lead, the Congress was the first WCCA to be held on North American soil.
The event included several keynote speakers, discussion panels, networking opportunities and a chance to participate in tours after the Congress, which took attendees to see conservation agriculture in action on nearby farms in Canada and the United States.
Jerry Hatfield of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, who served as WCCA program chair, said the Congress provided an opportunity to share ideas and learn from international colleagues on how conservation agriculture can be a success.
“WCCA impacts agriculture because everyone shares their ideas freely and openly, regardless if you are from academia or another hemisphere, or have a farm or work in policymaking,” Hatfield said. “Our goal is to share ideas that have practical application and can be put to work improving soil health as well as benefiting the farmer and society.”
Throughout the conference, attendees were challenged by keynote speakers to implement and educate others on conservation agriculture. David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, opened the Congress with his “Case for Global Soil Restoration.” He demonstrated how soil could have been the culprit for the downfall of several civilizations throughout history and how rebuilding good soil is essential for society to thrive.
Howard G. Buffett, a farmer, businessman and author of eight books on conservation, wildlife, and the human condition, acknowledged that differences among regions mean that no one cropping system or practice works everywhere. However, he emphasized, sustainable agriculture is essential for feeding the world’s population.
In his address to close the Congress, Dwayne Beck, manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, challenged participants to use science and reason, not emotion and rumors, when tackling issues related to soil degradation. Beck also encouraged the use of a systems approach with several conservation practices together in harmony to tackle soil degradation problems.
Glen Shaw, executive director of the SCCC, said that Congress attendees valued hearing speakers from outside of North America describe their struggles to reduce soil degradation and increase soil health in their respective countries.
“Attendees heard a consistent message that implementation of conservation agriculture is key to feeding a growing world population,” Shaw said. “A number of Canadian farmers expressed to me that it was interesting to learn about sustainable agriculture practices from other countries. Farmers share many of the same issues regardless of where they farm.”
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