Conservation Agriculture Research Updates - November 2016
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Conservation agriculture in irrigated intensive maize-based systems of north-western India: Effects on crop yields, water productivity and economic profitability

Parihar, C.M., Jat, S.L., Singh, A.K., Kumar, B., Yadvinder Singh, Pradhan, S., Pooniya, V., Dhauja, A., Chaudhary, V., Jat, M.L., Jat, R.K., & Yadav, O.P. 2016. Field Crops Research. 193: 104-116.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2016.03.013

  
Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

Maize is advocated to replace rice in rice-wheat systems of NW India to address issues of declining water tables and climate change induced variability. This 6 year CA study looked at permanent beds (PB), ZT and CT for 4 intensive, irrigated maize systems. Significant tillage and cropping system interactions were found. Yield of all crops except wheat grown in sequence with maize were maximum with ZT. With wheat PB's out yielded ZT. ZT and PB also reduced water usage. Net profit was also higher with maize based systems under ZT and with lower production costs.

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Environmental implications of three modern agricultural practices: Conservation Agriculture, the System of Rice Intensification and Precision Agriculture

A. Kassam and H. Brammer. 2016. International Journal of Environmental Studies: Vol. 73, No. 5, pp. 702-718.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207233.2016.1185329

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper describes CA and SRI as two land management practices that have made substantial and rapid changes in many countries of the World.  These management systems provide considerable financial benefits to farmers as well as important environmental benefits, including reversal of land degradation, reduction of river pollution, increased carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The authors suggest studies to determine why there are different rates of adoption.

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Impact of different crop rotations and tillage systems on weed infestation and productivity of bread wheat

 

M. Shahzad, M. Farooq, K. Jabran, M. Hussain. 2016. Crop Protection. 89: 161-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2016.07.019

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper compares weed infestation and productivity of 5 different wheat systems using 5 tillage systems including zero-tillage and bed systems in Pakistan. ZT, undisturbed soil treatments favored weed prevalence compared to disturbed soil treatments. The sorghum-wheat rotations had a strong suppression influence on weeds in all tillage treatments. Bed sown wheat had the highest wheat grain yields in the mungbean-wheat system. .

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

 

A. Tirol-Padre, M. Raj, V. Kumar, M. Gathala, P. Sharma, S. Sharma, R. K. Nagar, S. Deshwal, L.K. Singh, H.S. Jat, D.K. Sharma, R. Wassmann, J. Ladha. 2016. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 219: 125-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2015.12.020

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study in Haryana, India assessed the impact of CA practices on global warming potential (GWP) in RW systems. Methane and nitrous oxide fluxes were measured using 4 cropping system scenarios and different nitrogen rates. CH4 and N2O were also measured in farmer fields. CH$ was controlled by flooding with no effect of nitrogen whereas N2O was affected by rates and timing of N in relation to soil water status. N2O emissions could be avoided by applying N to wet soil or by irrigating the field not later than 1 day after N application. Surface crop residue application had no significant affect on seasonal CH4 or N2O emissions. Shifting rice cultivation from conventional puddled, transplanted to CA-based practices could reduce GWP by 23%. But some of this would be from decrease in diesel and electricity consumption.

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Soil quality indicators and crop yield under long-term tillage systems

L. Zhuzhu, G. Yantai, N. Yining, Z. Renzhi, L. Lingling, C. Liqun, X. Junhong. 2016. Experimental Agriculture. 1-15.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0014479716000521

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study looks at soil quality indicators (SQI) in response to long term tillage treatments in a rainfed system. Peas and wheat were grown in alternate years with soil measurements started 6 years after initiation of the experiment. Measures included physical, chemical and biological properties at 0-5, 5-10 and 10-30 cm depths. Bulk density and microbial counts occurred in the minimum data sets (MDS) in all three depths suggesting they are affected by tillage. No-till plus soil surface mulch gave the highest SQI scores.

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Weed management using crop competition in Australia

 

A.A. Bajwa, M. Walsh, B.S. Chauhan. 2016. Crop Protection. 2016: 1-6.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2016.08.021

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

Adoption of CA in Australia has brought significant changes in crop management. Increased reliance on herbicide for weed control is one of the most significant changes that has also led to increased evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. This paper looks at enhanced crop competition as an alternate or complement to herbicide use. This was achieved through the use of competitive crop species and cultivars, increased seed rates, narrow row spacing, and altered row orientation. It is suggested that crop competition can potentially be a sustainable weed management option

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Heterogeneous preferences and the effects of incentives in promoting conservation agriculture in Malawi

P.S. Ward, Bell, A.R., Parkhurst, G.M., Droppelmann, K., and Mapemba, L. 2016. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 222: 67-79.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.02.005

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study looked at farmer preferences for different CA practices and the willingness to adopt CA. Despite many long-term agronomic benefits, some farmers are not willing to adopt CA without incentives. The results suggest that farmers perceive that CA practices interact with one another differently, sometimes complementing and sometimes degrading the benefits of the other practices. A lot depends on the experiences with CA. Risks such as flooding and insect attacks often constrain adoption. Providing subsidies can increase likely adoption of a full CA package, but may generate some perverse incentives that can result in subsequent disadoption.

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

B. Mhlanga, Cheesman, S., Maasdorp, B., Mupangwa, W., Munyoro, C., Sithole, C., and Thierfelder, C. 2016. Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences (NJAS) 78: 93-101

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2016.05.001

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper looks at the use of relay planted cover crops as a strategy for maize-based systems in Zimbabwe. The main issue is how to avoid competition between the cover and main crop. Delays in planting the cover crops resulted in yield reductions of 50% in the cover crop. The introduction of cover crops at different periods of the season had no significant effects on the maize grain or biomass yields. 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.

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Disentangling the effects of conservation agriculture practices on the vertical distribution of soil organic carbon. Evidence of poor carbon sequestration in North- Eastern Italy

I. Piccoli, Chiarini, F., Carletti, P., Furlan, L., Lazzaro, B., Nardi, S., Berti, A., Sarton, L., Dalconi, M.C., and Morari, F. 2016. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 230: 68-78.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.05.035

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study compared conventional and conservation agriculture management systems in order to evaluate their effects on both SOC stocks and quality in Italy. Results suggested that conservation agriculture practices affected SOC distribution rather than its total amount. The retention of crop residues on the soil surface and the absence of tillage operations drove SOC dynamics in the top layer (0–5 cm) of the conservation system, while residues incorporation with ploughing was responsible for SOC accumulation at the 30–50 cm depth inThis research did not demonstrate the benefits of conservation practices on SOC sequestration during the transition period. However, SOC sequestration is only one of the numerous ecosystem services provided by conservation practices. the conventional one.

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Soil carbon sequestration potential of US croplands and grasslands: Implementing the 4 per Thousand Initiative

A. Chambers, Lal, R. and Paustian, K. 2016. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71 (3): 68A - 74A.

http://dx.doi.org/10.2489/jswc.71.3.68A

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

Interest in soil organic measurement dates back more than a century but the effect of climate change on SOC started in the 1990s. Since then, rates of SOC sequestration through adoption of best management practices have been assessed for diverse land uses and eco-regions throughout the country (USA), including for a wide variety of management practices on cropland. This paper presents the data from those studies.

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The reduction of partitioned wind and water erosion by conservation agriculture

R.S. Van Pelt, Hushmurodov, S.X., Baumhardt, R.L., Chappell, A., Nearing, M.A., Polyakov, V.O., and Strack, J.E. 2016. Catena Available online 10 July 2016.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.07.004

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper looks at the wind and water erosion implications on environmental problems in Bushland, Texas. They quantified wind and water erosion under a uniform crop rotation since 1949 and two tillage treatments -- stubble mulch tillage and no-tillage. They found that no-till management reduced total soil loss by one-third compared to stubble-mulch tillage, reduced water-borne sediment loss by about the same amount, and that for both tillage systems, wind erosion was responsible for about 75% of the total soil loss.

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Greenseeder: hand planter could boost productivity for world's poorest farmers.

CSA News. March 2016. 61 (3):  4 - 8.

http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/csa2016-61-3-1

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

A newly designed piece of equipment for replacing and improving the traditional stick jabbar planter. This paper explains the replacement of the ancestral tool for planting crops.

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Understanding (non-) adoption of Conservation Agriculture in Kenya using the Reasoned Action Approach

Freddy J. Van Hulst, Helena Posthumus. 2016. Land Use Policy. 56: 303-314. http://dx.doi.10.1016/j.landusepol.2016.03.002

 

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper looks at CA adoption by smallholder farmers in SSA. They indicate that CA has to be tailored to the agro-ecological and socio-economic context of these farmers to achieve impact. But even then adoption is not always done. This paper explores the reasons why farmers choose or not choose to adopt in Kenya. They look at farmers attitude towards CA, perception of social norms towards CA and their perceived behavioral control (PBC) over practicing CA. They show strong evidence that attitude and PBC are contributing to adoption.

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Agronomic improvements can make future cereal systems in South Asia far more productive and result in a lower environmental footprint.

Ladha, J.K., Rao, A.N., Raman, A.K., Padre, A.T., Dobermann, A., Gathala, M., Kumar, V., Saharawat, Y., Sharma, S., Piepho, H.P., Alam, Md. M., Liak, R. Rajendran, R., reddy, R., Parsad, R., Sharma, P.C., Singh, S.S., Saha, A., & Noor, S. 2016. Global Change Biology. 22 (3): 1054-1074.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13143

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper highlights the future challenge of providing food security by 2050 and how new management approaches and technical changes will be needed. This study was undertaken in 4 locations representing major food production systems in South Asia. The compared three futuristic cropping systems against current management. With best management practices (BMP) including CA and crop diversification, the productivity of rice- and wheat-based systems increased significantly and global warming potential decreased compared to the current management system. There were also positive economic returns, less water use, labor, nitrogen and fossil fuel energy per unit of food produced. Conservation agriculture practices were most suitable for intensifying as well as diversifying wheat–rice rotations, but less so for rice–rice systems. This finding also highlights the need for characterizing areas suitable for CA and subsequent technology targeting.

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Herbicide options for effective weed management in dry direct-seeded rice under scented rice-wheat rotation of western Indo-Gangetic Plains

 

V. Singh, M.L. Jat, Z.A. Ganie, B.S. Chauhan, R.K. Gupta. 2016. Crop Protection. 81:168 -176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2015.12.021

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study in Haryana, India used participatory farmer field trials to test the efficacy of various pre- and post-emergent herbicides for control of weeds in dry, direct seeded basmati rice varieties. Treatments with pendimethalin PRE followed by bispyribac-sodium and azimsulfuron POSThad the lowest weed biomass after 45 days. It was better to use spray applications of the herbicide than to mix with sand and apply to a flooded soil. Two scented rice varieties were sensitive to azimsulfuron at higher rates (35 g ai/ha). Since weed control is a major issue with direct seeded rice, these data are a valuable alternative to costly hand weeding.

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Planting date and yield benefits from conservation agriculture practices across Southern Africa

I. Nyamgumboa, S. Mkuhlania, W. Mupangwa, D. Rodriguez. 2017. Agricultural Systems. 150: 21-33.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2016.09.016 

 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

CA has been promoted in South Africa to improve farmer resilience to climate change. However, matching practices to agro-ecological and farmers' socioeconomic conditions remains contentious. This paper uses a cropping system model to quantify benefits and trade-offs in terms of sowing opportunity, yield and yield variability from adopting CA practices. The hypothesis was that farmers using CA would use less labor, plant earlier or closer to optimum times, and so increase maize yields and profits. Results showed in fact that CA practices - ripper, basins or direct seeding improved timeliness of operations. But this did not translate into higher maize yields in periods of high rainfall variability. But planting close to optimum dates did result in higher yields and lower yield variability.

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Relay sowing of wheat in the cotton-wheat cropping system in North-West India: technical and economic aspects.

M. Singh, H. S. Sidhu, J. S. Mahal, G. S. Manes, M. L. Jat, A. K. Mahal, P. Singh, Y. Singh. 2016. Experimental Agriculture. 1-14.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0014479716000569

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

Delayed seeding lowers wheat yields after cotton in South Asia.Relay planted wheat into cotton can help timely sowing and make better use of residual soil moisture. This study looked at 2 cotton biotypes, 2 relay seeders, 2 cotton spacings and 4 relay planting systems. Relay planting allowed farmers one extra boll picking that increased cotton yield 12%. Cotton genotypes had no affect on wheat emergence. A strip rotor and double disc openers performed better for wheat establishment than fixed tine openers.  Relay planting advanced wheat planting by 31 days and increased yield 19% with higher net returns compared to conventional planting.

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The State of Food and Agriculture 2016 | FAO | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2016. ISBN 978-92-5-109374-0 

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This publication recognizes the importance of food security in the international response to climate change, as reflected by many countries focusing prominently on the agriculture sector in their planned contributions to adaptation and mitigation. To help put those plans into action, this report identifies strategies, financing opportunities, and data and information needs. It also describes transformative policies and institutions that can overcome barriers to implementation.

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Zero-tillage as a pathway for sustainable wheat intensification in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains: does it work in farmers’ fields?

A. Keil, A. D'souza, A. McDonald. 2015. Food Security. 7(5). http://dx.doi.10.1007/s12571-015-0492-3

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This study assesses the real-world performance of ZT wheat in Eastern India, and quantified the productivity impact of current ZT practices in the State of Bihar, based on a random sample of 1000 wheat growing households, stratified by ZT adoption status. They found that the prevailing ZT practices without full residue retention led to a robust yield gain over conventional-tillage wheat across different agro-ecological zones, amounting to 498 kg ha−1 (19 %), on average. The economic benefit from ZT related yield increase and cost savings in wheat production amounted to 6% of total annual income among sampled households. Expansion of a network of service providers will be needed to increase farmer access to this technology.

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Short-term impact of an occasional tillage on microbial communities in a Vertosol after 43 years of no-tillage or conventional tillage

V.A. Rincon-Florez, Ng, C., Dang, Y.P., Schenk, P.M., and Carvalhais, L.C. 2016. European Journal of Soil Biology. 74: 32-38.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejsobi.2016.03.001

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

Occasional strategic tillage (ST) in Australia has been suggested to help control herbicide resistant weeds. This study looked at the impact of ST two systems -- no-tillage (NT) versus conventional tillage (CT) that were applied on a Vertosol soil for 49 years on various biological properties. There was no significant effect of ST on the measured biological attributes. However, total enzymatic activity for treatments under CTSR and CTSR-ST were significantly higher compared with NTSR-ST. Differences may be attributed to a significant increase in bulk density for CTSR treatment and an increment in bulk density on CTSR-ST plots. The lack of changes may be attributed to a high resistance and/or resilience of soil microbial communities after 15 weeks of tillage. More studies on the long-term effect of ST are required to assess the impact on soil biological properties.

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Chapter Three - Environmental Impact of Organic Agriculture

K. Lorenz and Lal, R. 2016. Chapter 3 - Environmental Impact of Organic Agriculture. Advances in Agronomy 139: 99-152.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/bs.agron.2016.05.003

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

The paper says that although Organic Agriculture (OA) is only practiced on a small percentage of the global agricultural land its importance is growing. It is perceived as being more environmentally friendly  because various modern day inputs are prohibited but evidence on this is scanty. Consumer demand for organic products will continue to grow driven by food safety concerns and increasing affluence. Due to lower yields, however, natural ecosystems may be increasingly converted to agroecosystems to meet the demand with less well-known consequences for the environment. The paper recommends an urgent need  to strengthen the database on environmental impacts of OA.

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Two decades of no-till in the Oberacker long-term field experiment: Part I. Crop yield, soil organic carbon and nutrient distribution in the soil profile

I. Martinez, Chervet, A., Weisskopf, P., Sturny, W.G., Etana, A., Stettler, M., Forkman, J., and Keller, T. 2016. Soil and Tillage Research. 163: 141-151.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2016.05.021

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This is a report of a two decades of no-till in the Oberacker long-term experiment in Switzerland comparing no-till with moldboard plowing. Crops are grown in 6-year rotations. It looks at nutrient distribution and storage in soils, depth distribution of SOC, and crop productivity. There was no significant difference in long-term average crop yield. However, crop yield was higher in NT in winter cereals and legumes but lower for root and tuber crops. Nutrient distribution was uniform in the MP treatment but there was strong stratification in the NT plots with higher nutrient concentrations in the upper layers associated with crop residue retention. Total storage of nutrients per ha in the whole soil profile were similar.

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Food Security as a function of Sustainable Intensification of Crop Production

Friedrich, T., Kassam, A. 2016. AIMS Agriculture and Food 1(2): 227-238.

http://dx.doi.org/10.3934/agrfood.2016.2.227

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

The challenge to eradicate hunger and establish food security across all its four pillars (availability, accessibility, health and safety, and continuity) is ongoing. Food production needs to increase over the coming decades at challenging rates, while facing problems of degradation and reduced availability of natural resources for production such as soil and water, and facing increasing challenges from climate change. The concept of sustainable intensification, the rationale for it and its functional elements, represented by Conservation Agriculture, are presented in this paper.

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Determinants of adoption and disadoption of minimum tillage by cotton farmers in eastern Zambia

P.P. Grabowski, Kerr, J.M., Haggblade, S., and Kabwe, S. 2016. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 231: 54-67.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.06.027

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This paper used surveys and interviews with farmers to look at adoption of CA and determinants of adoption and dis-adoption of hand hoe and oxen-drawn minimum tillage (MT). Farmers had favorable opinions of MT but for reducing losses due to erratic rainfall rather than the benefits to soils. However, adoption rates were relatively low. Many farmers wanted to adopt but available technologies did not match their resource endowments. Labor constrained the hand-hoe basins and equipment costs for the ox-ripping.

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Chapter Three - Climate Change and Agriculture: Adaptation Strategies and Mitigation Opportunities for Food Security in South Asia and Latin America

M.L. Jat, Dagar, J.C., Sapkota, T.B., Yavinder-Singh, Govaerts, B., Ridaura, S.L., Saharawat, Y.S., Sharma, R.K., Tetarwal, J.P., Jat, R.K., Hobbs, H., and Stirling, C. 2016. Advances in Agronomy: 137: 127-235.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/bs.agron

Cornell Conservation Agriculture Group (soilhealth.org)'s insight:

This article summarizes the available information on mitigation strategies for climate change to meet food security needs in South Asia and Latin America. They suggest that use of modern technologies such as conservation and climate smart agriculture, judicious utilization of available water for agriculture through microirrigation and water saving technologies, developing multiple stress-tolerant crop cultivars and biotypes through biotechnological tools, restoration of degraded soils and waters, promoting carbon sequestration through alternate production technologies and land use, and conservation of biodiversity must be promoted at regional and country level to ensure durable food and nutritional security. 

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