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Conservation agriculture in mixed crop-livestock systems: Scoping crop residue trade-offs in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

Author: Valbuena, D.
Author: Erenstein, O.
Author: Sabine Homann-Kee Tui
Author: Abdoulaye, T.
Author: Claessens, L.
Author: Duncan, A.J.
Author: Gerard, B.
Author: Rufino, M.C.
Author: Teufel, N.
Author: Rooyen, A. van
Author: Wijk, M.T. van
Year: 2012
ISSN: 0378-4290
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10883/2234
Abstract: Conservation agriculture (CA) is being advocated to enhance soil health and sustain long term crop productivity in the developing world. One of CA's key principles is the maintenance of soil cover often by retaining a proportion of crop residues on the field as mulch. Yet smallholder crop?livestock systems across Africa and Asia face trade-offs among various options for crop residue use. Knowledge of the potential trade-offs of leaving more residues as mulch is only partial and the objective of this research is to address some of these knowledge gaps by assessing the trade-offs in contrasting settings with mixed crop?livestock systems. The paper draws from village surveys in 12 sites in 9 different countries across Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia. Sites were clustered into 3 groups along the combined population and livestock density gradients to assess current crop residue management practices and explore potential challenges to adopting mulching practices in different circumstances. Results show that although high-density sites face higher potential pressure on resources on an area basis, biomass production tends to be more substantial in these sites covering demands for livestock feed and allowing part of the residues to be used as mulch. In medium-density sites, although population and livestock densities are relatively lower, biomass is scarce and pressure on land and feed are high, increasing the pressure on crop residues and their opportunity cost as mulch. In low-density areas, population and livestock densities are relatively low and communal feed and fuel resources exist, resulting in lower potential pressure on residues on an area basis. Yet, biomass production is low and farmers largely rely on crop residues to feed livestock during the long dry season, implying substantial opportunity costs to their use as mulch. Despite its potential benefit for smallholder farmers across the density gradient, the introduction of CA-based mulching practices appears potentially easier in sites where biomass production is high enough to fulfil existing demands for feed and fuel. In sites with relatively high feed and fuel pressure, the eventual introduction of CA needs complementary research and development efforts to increase biomass production and/or develop alternative sources to alleviate the opportunity costs of leaving some crop residues as mulch
Language: English
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact CIMMYT-Knowledge-Center@cgiar.org indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Article
Region: Central Africa
Region: Eastern Africa
Region: Southern Africa
Region: West Africa
Region: South Asia
Pages: 175-184
Journal: Field Crops Research
Journal volume: 132
DOI: 10.1016/j.fcr.2012.02.022
Keywords: Biomass use
Keywords: Mulching
Keywords: feed
Keywords: Sustainability
Keywords: Intensification
Keywords: Human population density
Keywords: Livestock density


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  • Socioeconomics
    Including topics such as farming systems, markets, impact & targeting, innovations, and GIS
  • Sustainable Intensification
    Sustainable intensification agriculture including topics on cropping systems, agronomy, soil, mechanization, precision agriculture, etc.

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