Published in: Outlook on Agriculture, 2016, vol.45, no.1, p.3-6.
The notion of adoption is central to efforts to measure technological change in African agriculture, and plays an important role in the evaluation of return on investment in agricultural research and technology development. However, the adoption concept, as it is commonly used in both the literature and development research practice, is seriously flawed and leads to inaccurate and misleading conclusions. The authors outline a design specification for a replacement concept that would provide a better basis for robust empirical research on the economic, social and environmental impacts of investment in agricultural technology development and promotion. They propose that this new concept can contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of the impacts of technology development interventions.
Published in: Journal of Rural Studies, 2016, vol.46, p.155-168.
There is strong advocacy for agricultural machinery appropriate for smallholder farmers in South Asia. Such ‘scale-appropriate’ machinery can increase returns to land and labour, although the still substantial capital investment required can preclude smallholder ownership. Increasing machinery demand has resulted in relatively well-developed markets for rental services for tillage, irrigation, and post-harvest operations. Many smallholders thereby access agricultural machinery that may have otherwise been cost prohibitive to purchase through fee-for-service arrangements, though opportunity for expansion remains. To more effectively facilitate the development and investment in scale-appropriate machinery, there is a need to better understand the factors associated with agricultural machinery purchases and service provision. This paper first reviews Bangladesh’s historical policy environment that facilitated the development of agricultural machinery markets. It then uses recent Bangladesh census data from 814,058 farm households to identify variables associated with the adoption of the most common smallholder agricultural machinery – irrigation pumps, threshers, and power tillers (mainly driven by two-wheel tractors). Multinomial probit model results indicate that machinery ownership is positively associated with household assets, credit availability, electrification, and road density. These findings suggest that donors and policy makers should focus not only on short-term projects to boost machinery adoption. Rather, sustained emphasis on improving physical and civil infrastructure and services, as well as assuring credit availability, is also necessary to create an enabling environment in which the adoption of scale-appropriate farm machinery is most likely.
Background: Crops such as maize, sorghum, and millet are being biofortified with provitamin A carotenoids to ensure adequate vitamin A (VA) intakes. VA assessment can be challenging because serum retinol concentrations are homeostatically controlled and more sensitive techniques are resource-intensive.
Objectives: We investigated changes in serum retinol relative differences of isotope amount ratios of 13C/12C (d13C) caused by natural 13C fractionation in C3 compared with C4 plants as a biomarker to detect provitamin A efficacy from biofortified (orange) maize and high-carotene carrots.
Methods: The design was a 2 3 2 3 2 maize (orange compared with white) by carrot (orange compared with white) by a VA fortificant (VA+ compared with VA2) in weanling male Mongolian gerbils (n = 55), which included a 14-d VA depletion period and a 62-d treatment period (1 baseline and 8 treatment groups; n = 527/group). Liver VA and serum retinol were quantified, purified by HPLC, and analyzed by GC combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry for 13C.
Results: Treatments affected liver VA concentrations (0.048 6 0.039 to 0.79 6 0.24 mmol/g; P < 0.0001) but not overall serum retinol concentrations (1.3860.22 mmol/L). Serum retinol and liver VA d13C were significantly correlated (R2 = 0.92; P < 0.0001). Serum retinol d13C differentiated control groups that consumed white maize and white carrots (227.1 6 1.2 d13C&) from treated groups that consumed orange maize and white carrots (221.6 6 1.4 d13C&; P < 0.0001) and white maize and orange carrots (230.6 6 0.7 d13C&; P < 0.0001). A prediction model demonstrated the relative contribution of orange maize to total dietary VA for groups that consumed VA from mixed sources.
Conclusions: Provitamin A efficacy and quantitative estimation of the relative contribution to dietary VA were demonstrated with the use of serum retinol d13C. This method could be used for maize efficacy or effectiveness studies and with other C4 crops biofortified with provitamin A carotenoids (e.g., millet, sorghum). Advantages include no extrinsic tracer dose, 1 blood sample, and higher sensitivity than serum retinol concentrations alone.
Published in: Paddy Water Environment, In press.
Rice and wheat are the principal calorie sources for over a billion people in South Asia, although each crop is particularly sensitive to the climatic and agronomic management conditions under which they are grown. Season-long heat stress can reduce photosynthesis and accelerate senescence; if extreme heat stress is experienced during flowering, both rice and wheat may also experience decreased pollen viability and stigma deposition, leading to increased grain sterility. Where farmers are unable to implement within-season management adaptations, significant deviations from expected climatic conditions would affect crop growth, yield, and therefore have important implications for food security. The influence of climatic conditions on crop growth have been widely studied in growth chamber, greenhouse, and research station trials, although empirical evidence of the link between climatic variability and yield risk in farmers’ fields is comparatively scarce. Using data from 240 farm households, this paper responds to this gap and isolates the effects of agronomic management from climatic variability on rice and wheat yield risks in eight of Pakistan’s twelve agroecological zones. Using Just and Pope production functions, we tested for the effects of crop management practices and climatic conditions on yield and yield variability for each crop. Our results highlight important risks to farmers’ ability to obtain reliable yield levels for both crops. Despite variability in input use and crop management, we found evidence for the negative effect of both season-long and terminal heat stress, measured as the cumulative number of days during which crop growth occurred above critical thresholds, though wheat was considerably more sensitive than rice. Comparing variation in observed climatic parameters in the year of study to medium-term patterns, rice, and wheat yields were both negatively affected, indicative of production risk and of farmers’ limited capacity for within-season adaptation. Our findings suggest the importance of reviewing existing climate change adaptation policies that aim to increase cereal farmers’ resilience in Pakistan, and more broadly in South Asia. Potential agronomic and extension strategies are proposed for further investigation.
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.
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Authors: 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.