Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable intensification’

Effect of different mulching materials on maize growth and yield in conservation agriculture systems of sub-humid Zimbabwe

Posted by gabrielamartinez on , in Journal Articles

The introduction of conservation agriculture (CA) for smallholders increased the competition for crop residues between crop and livestock enterprises of the mixed smallholder farming system. Smallholders practicing CA have resorted to using grass and leaf litter in addition to available crop residues. The effect of these different mulching materials on maize (Zea mays L.) growth and yield is not well documented in smallholder CA systems of southern Africa. A two-year experiment was run in 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons to evaluate the effect of maize residues, grass (Hyparrhenia filipendula (L.) Stapf.) and leaf litter that farmers are currently using and residues from leguminous species, sunhemp (Crotolaria juncea L.) and Tephrosia (Tephrosia vogelii ((Hook) f.)) on maize nitrogen (N) uptake, growth and yield. Significant differences in soil water content across treatments were only observed during March in 2012/13 season. Maize residues retained more soil water and Tephrosia had the lowest soil water content when seasonal rainfall pattern was erratic. Grass and Tephrosia treatments had the lowest chlorophyll content. Conventional ploughing, maize residues and leaf litter had similar chlorophyll content which was significantly higher than grass and Tephrosia treatments. At a site with higher initial soil fertility conventional ploughing treatment out yielded the other treatments by 727–1265 kg ha−1. With more degraded sandy soil conventional practice had 119–430 kg ha−1 more maize grain than the CA treatments. With adequate fertilization, the mulching materials have a similar effect on maize growth in basins and direct seeding. Further studies on different application rates of mulching materials and mineral N fertilizer, and nutrient release patterns of these residues are critical in order to better understand soil fertility management under smallholder CA systems.

Source: Open Access Journals

Long term effect of conservation agriculture in maize rotations on total organic carbon, physical and biological properties of a sandy loam soil in north-western Indo-Gangetic Plains

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Maize-based crop rotations are advocated as alternate to rice-based systems in South Asia due to better suitability for diverse ecologies, higher yields with less water use and more palatable maize fodder compared to rice, and increased demand of maize from piggery and poultry industries. Alternate tillage and crop establishment practices are important management strategies for tackling the issues of soil health deterioration and over exploitation of underground water resources, particularly in rice based intensive crop rotations. The conservation agriculture (CA) based tillage and crop establishment practices such as zero tillage (ZT) and permanent raised beds (PB) hold potential to enhance soil organic carbon (SOC), physical and biological properties for sustainability of soil health. Therefore, a long term study was conducted to evaluate the twelve combinations of tillage practices (03) and irrigated intensive maize based crop rotations (04) on organic carbon, physical properties and microbial biomass and enzymatic activities of a sandy loam (Typic Haplustept) soil in north-western India. The tillage practices consisted of ZT, PB and conventional tillage (CT) in main plots and four diversified intensive maize based crop rotations (MWMb: Maize-Wheat-Mungbean, MCS: Maize-Chickpea-Sesbaina, MMuMb: Maize-Mustard-Mungbean, MMS: Maize-Maize-Sesbania) in sub plots. In this study we analysed the SOC, physical and biological properties of soil at various depths after 7 years of continuous ZT, PB and CT in diversified maize rotations. Compared to CT plots, the soil physical properties like water stable aggregates (WSA) > 250 μm were 16.1-32.5% higher, and bulk density (BD) and penetration resistance (PR) showed significant (P < 0.05) decline (11.0–14.3 and 11.2–12.0%) in ZT and PB plots at 0–15 and 15–30 cm soil layers. The soil organic carbon (SOC) increased by 34.6-35.3% at 0–15 cm, and 23.6-26.5% at 15–30 cm soil depths with conservation agriculture (ZT and PB) based crop establishment techniques over CT. Similarly, the soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) under CA based systems increased by 45–48.9% in 0–30 cm profile depth of a sandy loam (Typic Haplustept) soil. Significant (P < 0.05) improvement in soil enzymatic activities i.e., Fluorescein diacetate, dehydrogenase, β Glucosidase and Alkaline phosphatase was also recorded in the CA based treatments. Significant (P < 0.05) synergistic effects of summer legumes (mungbean and Sesbania) with winter legume/cereal in crop rotations were observed on SOC,WSA, BD, PR and Ksat at 0–15 and 15–30 cm depths. Interaction between tillage and crop rotations were significant (P < 0.05) for soil organic carbon, physical properties and enzymatic activities. Thus our long-term study suggests that CA based crop management with selected diversified maize based rotations (MCS and MWMb) can be advocated as sustainable intensification strategy in light textured soils of north-western India and other similar agro-ecologies of South Asia.

Source: Long term effect of conservation agriculture in maize rotations on total organic carbon, physical and biological properties of a sandy loam soil in north-western Indo-Gangetic Plains

Bio-energy, water-use efficiency and economics of maize-wheat-mungbean system under precision-conservation agriculture in semi-arid agro-ecosystem

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The maize-wheat-mungbean (MWMb) cropping system is being advocated as an alternative to the traditional rice-based cropping systems of north-western Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) to address the issues of energy and nutritional scarcity, residue burning, decline in biomass productivity and water tables. In semi-arid regions, the climate-change-induced variability in rainfall and temperature may have an impact on phenological responses of cereals and pulses which in turn would affect biomass production, economic yield and energy and water-use efficiency (WUE) of the crops. Henceforth, quantification of bioequivalent yields, energy requirement, economics and WUE of MWMb system is essentially required owing to have better understanding of this cropping system. Following a 4-year study was conducted under different tillage and nutrient management. ZT and PB plots had significantly higher pooled average (17.2–20.3%) biomass productivity, (34.4–39.8%) net returns and (49.8–66.2%) biomass water-use efficiency with lesser (8.5–16.1%) water-use than the CT plots. Significantly higher pooled bioenergetic yields (21.7–35.2%), net returns (31.4–37.8%) and biomass water-use efficiency (30.1–35.2%) was observed in SSNM/Ad-hoc plots compared with FFP plots. The total pooled energy input in ZT/PB and SSNM/Ad-hoc plots was significant (P < 0.05) higher than CT and FFP plots, respectively, with greater net energy output, energy productivity and energy efficiency. The interactions between tillage and nutrient management practices on pooled input energy and energy productivity of MWMb system was significant (P < 0.05). Thus, adoption of conservation tillage (ZT/PB) practices with improved nutrient management (SSNM/Ad-hoc) could be a viable option for achieving higher biomass productivity, water and energy-use efficiency and profitability in MWMb system.

Source: Bio-energy, water-use efficiency and economics of maize-wheat-mungbean system under precision-conservation agriculture in semi-arid agro-ecosystem

Africa’s changing farm size distribution patterns : the rise of medium-scale farms

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58096Authors: Jayne, T.S., Chamberlin, J.; Traub, L.; Sitko, N.J.; Muyanga, M.; Yeboah, K.; Anseeuw, W.; Chapoto, A.; Ayala Wineman; Nkonde, C.; Kachule, R.

Published in: Agricultural Economics, 2016, vol. 47 (supplement), p. 197-214

Mexico is the center of origin of diversification of maize (Zea mays L.), there are 3.2 million corn growers and is the largest crop harvested. Most of these producers are in the rural sector, in poverty and inequality. Despite this genetic diversity and represent about 65% of the cultivated area it is little attention has been given to the potential of native maize in commercial terms. The marketing of landraces can be carried out in traditional local markets and specialty markets. This research aimed to identify the dynamics of actual marketing of native maize in Mexico in order to identify options trading in specialty markets for the conservation of the biodiversity of these corns and improve the income of producers. The 492 interviews were made with farmers, traders and processors of native maize customers in the states of Mexico, Tlaxcala and Guerrero. The results show that the main specialty corns produced are the colors and within these the most important in marketing are the targets by consumer preferences corns. It is concluded that currently the market is landraces in traditional local markets; however there is potential for the development of specialty markets that require value added.

Effects of relay cover crop planting date on their biomass and maize productivity in a sub-humid region of Zimbabwe under conservation agriculture

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57955Authors: Mhlanga, B.; Cheesman, S.; Maasdorp, B.; Mupangwa, W.; Munyoro, C.; Sithole, C.; Thierfelder, C.

Published in: NJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 2016, vol.78, p.93–101.

Relay cropping of cover crops is a strategy of increasing biomass yields and productivity of maize-based systems. However, there is need to strategically plan the relay cropping to avoid competition between the main crop and the relay cover crops while at the same time obtaining optimum yields from both crops. A study was carried out in a clay soil in a sub-humid region of Zimbabwe to investigate the effect of introducing different relay cover crops at 8, 11 and 15 weeks after planting maize (WAPM) into a standing maize crop on biomass yield of the relay cover crops, their emergence and maize yields in the 2012–13 and 2013–14 seasons. From the results of the study, it was observed that the introduction of relay cover crops late in the season compromises their emergence and hence biomass yields (as low as 0.8 kg ha−1 for blue lupins (Lupinus angustifolius var. angustifolius (L.)). In a season where longer mid-season dry spells were experienced (2013–14), biomass yields of the relay cover crops were lower than in 2012–13 season. Delays in planting of relay cover crops (i.e. from 8 to 11 and from 11 to 15 WAPM) resulted in yield reductions of around 50%. Relay cover crops introduced at different periods of the season had no significant effects on maize grain and biomass yields. However, there are relay cover crops such as the velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC) and common oats (Avena sativa L.) that showed better emergence even in the sub-optimal conditions (with emergence as high as 90%). Of all the investigated relay cover crops, none could contribute to significant amounts of biomass thus insignificant increases in total plot biomass. There is need to investigate on other earlier planting dates that do not compromise the biomass productivity of such relay cover crops.

Fertilization strategies in Conservation Agriculture systems with Maize-Legume cover crops rotations in Southern Africa

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57956Author(s): Mupangwa, W.; Thierfelder, C.; Ngwira, A.

Published in: In: Experimental Agriculture In press

Multilocation experiments were established to determine the best strategy for using inorganic fertilizer in conservation agriculture (CA) systems that use green manure cover crops, namely sunhemp, velvet bean and cowpea grown in rotation with maize. The objectives of the study were to determine (i) the effect of half and full rates of basal fertilizer on maize and legume biomass yields, (ii) the residual effects of unfertilized, half and fully fertilized green manure legumes on maize grown after the legumes, and (iii) the residual effect of unfertilized, half and fully fertilized green manure legumes combined with basal and topdressing fertilizer on maize yields. Experimental design was a randomized complete block with basal fertilizer as a treatment in the green manure legumes phase. Previously, in the maize phase, green manure legume species were the main treatment with basal fertilizer as a subtreatment (sunhemp, velvet bean and cowpea: 0, 75, 150 kg ha−1 and 0, 50, 100 kg ha−1, respectively). Nitrogen was applied in the maize phase at 0, 23, 46, 69 kg N ha−1 as a sub-subtreatment in Malawi. Results showed that inorganic fertilizer is the most effective when applied to the maize, not green manure legumes. Biomass of green manure legumes, sunnhemp 8084 kg ha−1, velvet bean 7678 kg ha−1 and cowpea 4520 kg ha−1, was not significantly affected by application of basal fertilizer. Maize production increased after the application of green manure legumes with maize-after-maize, maize-after-velvet bean, maize-after-sunnhemp and maize-after-cowpea, yielding 3804, 5440, 5446 and 5339 kg ha−1, respectively. Nitrogen increased maize yield regardless of the previously used green manure legumes species. Our results suggest that farmers should apply fertilizer to maize and grow green manure legumes on residual soil in CA systems. Despite growing green manure legumes, smallholders should apply nitrogen topdressing to maize grown using the green manure legumes in some agro-ecologies.

Does closing knowledge gaps close yield gaps? On-farm conservation agriculture trials and adoption dynamics in three smallholder farming areas in Zimbabwe

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57964Authors: Cheesman, S.; Andersson, J.A.; Frossard, E.

Published in: Journal of Agricultural Science, In press.

On-farm demonstration-trials are a common strategy to introduce new technologies to farmers, while simultaneously evaluating these technologies’ performance under farmer conditions. The current study focuses on conservation agriculture (CA) technology adoption dynamics among a small group of farmers who can be considered increasingly knowledgeable, as they have hosted CA demonstration-trials for at least 7 years. Management and performance of farmers’ fields were compared with the CA demonstration-trials implemented on the same farm, focusing on yield gaps (YGs) between the two and the uptake of CA or some of its principles. Comparisons were made between demonstration-trials and farmers’ fields in three distinct land classification areas: Madziwa Communal Area (est. 1910s), Chavakadzi (est. 1980s) and Hereford (est. 2000s) Resettlement Areas. It was found that closing knowledge gaps on CA did not close YGs and that CA adoption was partial. In the Communal Area, CA principles have barely been taken up, but farmer yields were often as good as on the demonstration-trials. In the Resettlement Areas, farmers did take up reduced tillage (CA principle 1) and practised rotations (CA principle 3), but not residue retention (CA principle 2). Rather than partial CA adoption, lower fertilization rates explained the recorded YGs in the Resettlement Areas. In the three areas, farmers’ interest in CA-based increasing of yields was limited, as circumstances drove them to embark on extensification rather than a land use intensification pathway.

Resource saving and productivity enhancing impacts of crop management innovation packages in Ethiopia

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57983Authors: Jaleta Debello Moti.; Kassie, M.; Kindie Tesfaye Fantaye; Tilaye Teklewold; Pradyot Ranjan Jena; Marenya, P.; Erenstein, O.

Published in: Agricultural Economics, 2016, vol.47, p.513-522

Crop management innovations are often not discrete fixed stand-alone options—and their adoption may imply various combinations and adaptations. This potentially confounds their impact assessment. This article assesses the resource saving and productivity enhancing impacts of a crop management package revolving around minimum tillage in maize-based farming systems in northwest Ethiopia. An endogenous switching regression model was applied to plot- and household-level survey data collected from 290 rural households operating 590 maize plots during the 2012 production year. Controlling for variations in plot and household characteristics, the average effect of minimum tillage package (minimum tillage package) on maize productivity is 0.44 t/ha. Compared to conventional practice (CP), adoption of the MTP decreased the average male and female labor use in maize production by 14.4 and 8.2 person-days per ha, respectively. Similarly, MTP adoption decreased draft power use for land preparation by 13.2 pair of oxen-days per ha. Compared to CP, in general, there is a considerable short-run maize productivity gain and reduction in labor and draft power use under MTP.

Quantifying changes to the global warming potential of rice wheat systems with the adoption of conservation agriculture in northwestern India

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57504Authors: Tirol Padre, A.; Munmun Rai; Kumar, V; Gathala, M.K; Sharma, P.C; Sharma, S; Rakesh Kumar Nagar; Deshwal, S; Singh, L.K; Jat, H.S; Sharma, D.K; Wassmann, R; Jagdish Kumar Ladha.

Published in: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2016, vol. 219, p.125-137


Field trials were conducted in Haryana representing the northwestern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) to assess the changes brought about by management, including conservation agriculture (CA) practices, in the global warming potential (GWP) of conventional rice–wheat systems. Conservation agriculture is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, by way of minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover with organic matter or cover crops and crop rotation. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes were measured using static chambers. Experiments involved four cropping system scenarios with different CA components, and different N rates. In addition, emissions of CH4 and N2O fluxes were measured in farmers’ fields to establish baselines. The dynamics of CH4 emissions were controlled by floodwater levels, and fertilizer N had no effect. On the other hand, N application rates and timing in relation to soil water status determined the N2O emissions in rice fields. Nitrous oxide fluxes could be avoided by applying N fertilizer to wet soil or by irrigating the field not later than 1 day after N application. Applying crop residues on soil surface had no significant effect on the seasonal CH4 and N2O emissions. It was estimated that switching rice crop establishment method from conventional to CA-based practices in Haryana could reduce GWP for rice by 23% or by 1.26 Tg CO2 eq yr−1. An intensive CA-based rice–wheat and maize–wheat system reduced GWP by 16–26% or by 1.3–2.0 Tg CO2 eq yr−1 compared with the conventional rice–wheat system. However, this reduction in GWP would be from a decrease in diesel and electricity consumption and not from direct emissions of CH4 and N2O, which were higher in the maize–wheat system than in the rice–wheat system.

Effects of conservation agriculture on crop productivity and water-use efficiency under an irrigated pigeonpea–wheat cropping system in the western Indo-Gangetic Plains

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57502Authors: Das, T.K.; Bandyopadhyay, K.K; Bhattacharya, R; Sudhishri, S; Sharma, A.R; Behera, U.K; Saharawat, Y.S; Sahoo, P; Pathak, H; Vyas, A.K; Bhar, L.M; Gupta, H.S; Gupta, R.K; Jat, M.L.

Published in: In: Journal of Agricultural Science In press


In search of a suitable resource conservation technology under pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.)–wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) system in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, the effects of conservation agriculture (CA) on crop productivity and water-use efficiency (WUE) were evaluated during a 3-year study. The treatments were: conventional tillage (CT), zero tillage (ZT) with planting on permanent narrow beds (PNB), PNB with residue (PNB + R), ZT with planting on permanent broad beds (PBB) and PBB + R. The PBB + R plots had higher pigeonpea grain yield than the CT plots in all 3 years. However, wheat grain yields under all plots were similar in all years except for PBB + R plots in the second year, which had higher wheat yield than CT plots. The contrast analysis showed that pigeonpea grain yield of CA plots was significantly higher than CT plots in the first year. However, both pigeonpea and wheat grain yields during the last 2 years under CA and CT plots were similar. The PBB + R plots had higher system WUE than the CT plots in the second and third years. Plots under CA had significantly higher WUE and significantly lower water use than CT plots in these years. The PBB + R plots had higher WUE than PNB + R and PNB plots. Also, the PBB plots had higher WUE than PNB in the second and third years, despite similar water use. The interactions of bed width and residue management for all parameters in the second and third years were not significant. Those positive impacts under PBB + R plots over CT plots were perceived to be due to no tillage and significantly higher amount of estimated residue retention. Thus, both PBB and PBB + R technologies would be very useful under a pigeonpea–wheat cropping system in this region.