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Diversity in crop residue management across an intensification gradient in southern Africa : system dynamics and crop productivity

by Rusinamhodzi, L; Corbeels, M; Giller, K.E.
Material type: materialTypeLabelArticlePublisher: Amsterdam (Netherlands) : Elsevier, 2016Subject(s): Crop residues -- Southern Africa | Intensification AGROVOCOnline resources: Click here to access online In: Field Crops Research 2016, vol.185, p.79-88Summary: Crop residues are important for livestock feed and nutrient cycling among many other functions on smallholder farming systems of sub-SaharanAfrica. The objective ofthis study was to assess differences in resource endowment, crop productivity and crop residuemanagementin selected sites in southernAfrica. Three sites were selected along a gradient of intensification of crop production; Murehwa, Zimbabwe and Ruaca and Gorongosa, central Mozambique. Murehwa and Ruaca have mixed crop-livestock systems with more intensive crop production in Murehwa. Gorongosa is predominantly crop based with small livestock that do not impact on crop production. A combination of land size and cattle ownership was the major attribute that defined wealth status among farmers in mixed crop-livestock systems whereas land size and labor availability were important under crop-based extensification systems. Farm systems were more diverse where livestock was more important. The wealthiest farmers (resource group—RG1) in Murehwa produced an average of 2.2 t ha−1 maize crop residues, and productivity decreased with decrease in resource ownership with the poorest (RG4) achieving only 0.8 t ha−1. In Ruaca 1.3 and 0.5 t ha−1 was produced by RG1 and RG4 respectively, whereas in Gorongosa 0.4 and 0.2 t ha−1 was produced by RG1 and RG4. These crop residues are insufficient to achieve the minimum threshold of soil cover (30%) required for the practice of conservation agriculture. However, they can provide sufficient feed to sustain livestock of RG1 farmers in Murehwa for 63 days and 54 days for RG2 farmers. In Ruaca, they can feed cattle for 37 days for RG1 and 17 days for RG2 farmers. The product of livestock × population density determined the extent and manner in which crop residues are used. The population density limited the extent ofthe grazing area, increased grazing frequency and reduced the grazing quality leading to the need to supplement animal feed with crop residues. Farmers preferentially allocate crop residues to livestock where labor is available. The crop residues fed to animals allow farmers to increase manure quantity and quality which explains the major differences in crop productivity between the different resource groups. In the absence of cattle, crop residues are burned before the cropping season to facilitate land clearance. In conclusion, land size, cattle ownership and labor availability largely define the intensity of crop production and the fate of crop residues on smallholder farms in southern Africa.
List(s) this item appears in: CIMMYT-SIP 2016-2017 Peer-reviewed publications list
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Crop residues are important for livestock feed and nutrient cycling among many other functions on
smallholder farming systems of sub-SaharanAfrica. The objective ofthis study was to assess differences in
resource endowment, crop productivity and crop residuemanagementin selected sites in southernAfrica.
Three sites were selected along a gradient of intensification of crop production; Murehwa, Zimbabwe and
Ruaca and Gorongosa, central Mozambique. Murehwa and Ruaca have mixed crop-livestock systems with
more intensive crop production in Murehwa. Gorongosa is predominantly crop based with small livestock
that do not impact on crop production. A combination of land size and cattle ownership was the major
attribute that defined wealth status among farmers in mixed crop-livestock systems whereas land size
and labor availability were important under crop-based extensification systems. Farm systems were more
diverse where livestock was more important. The wealthiest farmers (resource group—RG1) in Murehwa
produced an average of 2.2 t ha−1 maize crop residues, and productivity decreased with decrease in
resource ownership with the poorest (RG4) achieving only 0.8 t ha−1. In Ruaca 1.3 and 0.5 t ha−1 was produced
by RG1 and RG4 respectively, whereas in Gorongosa 0.4 and 0.2 t ha−1 was produced by RG1 and
RG4. These crop residues are insufficient to achieve the minimum threshold of soil cover (30%) required
for the practice of conservation agriculture. However, they can provide sufficient feed to sustain livestock
of RG1 farmers in Murehwa for 63 days and 54 days for RG2 farmers. In Ruaca, they can feed cattle for 37
days for RG1 and 17 days for RG2 farmers. The product of livestock × population density determined the
extent and manner in which crop residues are used. The population density limited the extent ofthe grazing
area, increased grazing frequency and reduced the grazing quality leading to the need to supplement
animal feed with crop residues. Farmers preferentially allocate crop residues to livestock where labor is
available. The crop residues fed to animals allow farmers to increase manure quantity and quality which
explains the major differences in crop productivity between the different resource groups. In the absence
of cattle, crop residues are burned before the cropping season to facilitate land clearance. In conclusion,
land size, cattle ownership and labor availability largely define the intensity of crop production and the
fate of crop residues on smallholder farms in southern Africa.

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