Among the field crops, cereals being the staple food for humans and feed for cattle, occupy 50.8 per cent of the cultivated land and contribute 52.5 per cent of the body calories. Cereals are the good source of carbohydrate, minerals, and dietary fibre for humans and animals. With the ever growing human population the agricultural production and agri-wastes are increasing across the globe. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, near about 66, 21 and 13 per cent of total estimated 2,060 Tg of biomass are generated every year. Burning has been the cheapest, simplest, easiest and quickest way of eliminating bulky unwanted biomass in-situ before raising of the succeeding crop(s). Rice, wheat, sugarcane and maize constitute 24, 23, 5 and 48 per cent of the global burnt residues. Although killing of problematic weeds, insects, and pathogens, and addition of valuable plant nutrients are the very basic objectives of this anthropogenic post-harvest residue management strategy but it releases noxious gases into the atmosphere polluting air and contributing to the global warming. Shorter sowing windows very often compel the farmers to remove crop residues through burning, especially in absence of alternative options for its productive and profitable disposal. Rising labour cost and their seasonal scarcity sometimes also insist the farmers to burn crop residues. However, stringent punitive actions have yet failed to curb such open burning in many countries in absence of the farmers’ friendly and financially viable options of crop residue management. In this chapter, attempts have been made to elucidate various sustainable crop residue management strategies in cereal systems.
Part of the book: Cereal Grains