Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Conservation agriculture systems for Malawian smallholder farmers: long-term effects on crop productivity, profitability and soil quality

  • Amos Robert Ngwira (a1), Christian Thierfelder (a2) and Dayton M. Lambert (a3)
Abstract

Conservation agriculture (CA) systems are based upon minimal soil disturbance; crop residue retention and crop rotation and/or intercrop association are increasingly seen to recycle nutrients, increase yield and reduce production costs. This study examines the effects of CA practices on crop productivity, profitability and soil quality under the conditions encountered by smallholder farmers in two farming communities from 2005 to 2011 in Malawi, as part of the contribution to remedy a lack of supporting agronomic research for these relatively new systems. The drier agroenvironment of Lemu of Bazale Extension Planning Area (EPA) is characterized by sandy clay loam soils and lower rainfall. Here, CA showed positive benefits on maize yield after the first season of experimentation, with highest increases of 2.7 Mg ha−1 and 2.3 Mg ha−1 more yield in CA monocrop maize and CA maize–legume intercrop, respectively, than the conventional tillage in the driest season of 2009/10. In the high rainfall environment of Zidyana EPA (characterized by sandy loam soils), substantial maize yield benefits resulted in the fifth season of experimentation. Farmers spent at most 50 days ha−1 (US$140) producing maize under CA systems compared with 62 days ha−1(US$176) spent under conventional tillage practices. In Lemu, both CA systems resulted in gross margins three times higher than that of the conventional control plot, while in Zidyana, CA monocrop maize and CA maize–legume intercrop resulted in 33 and 23% higher gross margins, respectively, than conventional tillage. In Zidyana, the earthworm population was highest (48 earthworms m−2 in the first 30 cm) in CA monocrop maize, followed by a CA maize–legume intercropping (40 earthworms) and lowest (nine earthworms) in conventionally tilled treatment. In both study locations CA monocrop maize and CA maize–legume intercrop gave higher water infiltration than the conventional treatment. Improvements in crop productivity, overall economic gain and soil quality have made CA an attractive system for farmers in Malawi and other areas with similar conditions. However, for extensive adoption of CA by smallholder farmers, cultural beliefs that crop production is possible without the ubiquitous ridge and furrow system and residue burning for mice hunting have to be overcome.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Conservation agriculture systems for Malawian smallholder farmers: long-term effects on crop productivity, profitability and soil quality
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Conservation agriculture systems for Malawian smallholder farmers: long-term effects on crop productivity, profitability and soil quality
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Conservation agriculture systems for Malawian smallholder farmers: long-term effects on crop productivity, profitability and soil quality
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence . The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: robert.ngwira@umb.no
References
Hide All
1Love, D., Twomlow, S., Mupangwa, W., Van der Zaag, P., and Gumbo, B. 2006. Implementing the millennium development food security goals – challenges of southern Africa context. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 31:731737.
2Ellis, F., Kutengule, M., and Nyasulu, A. 2003. Livelihoods and rural poverty reduction in Malawi. World Development 31:14951510.
3Ito, M., Matsumoto, T., and Quinones, M.A. 2007. Conservation tillage practice in sub-Saharan Africa: the experience of Sasakawa Global 2000. Crop Protection 26:417423.
4Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security, MoAFS. 2008. Annual Agricultural Statistical Bulletin. Planning Division. Government of Malawi. Lilongwe, Malawi.
5Denning, G., Kabambe, P., Sanchez, P., Malik, A., and Flor, R. 2009. Input subsidies to improve smallholder maize productivity in Malawi: toward an African Green Revolution. PLoS Biol 7:e1000023.
6Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, MoAFS 2011. Crop Production Estimates. Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Planning. Government of the Republic of Malawi, Lilongwe.
7Mann, C. 1998. Higher yields for all smallholders through ‘best-bet’ technology: the surest way to restart economic growth in Malawi: Network Research Results Working Paper No. 3. CIMMYT, Mexico.
8Levy, S. (ed.) 2005. Starter Packs: a Strategy to Fight Hunger in Developing Countries? CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
9Kumwenda, J.D.T., Waddington, S.R., Snapp, S.S., Jones, R.B., and Blackie, M.J. 1998. Soil Fertility Management in Southern Africa. In Byerlee, D. and Eicher, C.K. (eds). Africa's Emerging Maize Revolution. Lynne Reiner Publishers, Colorado. p. 157172.
10Montgomery, D.R. 2007. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization. University of California Press, Berkley, California. p. 295.
11Wall, P. 2007. Tailoring conservation agriculture to the needs of small farmers in developing countries: an analysis of issues. Journal of Crop Improvement 19:137155.
12Rockström, J., Kaumbotho, P., Mwalley, J., Nzabi, A.W., Temesgen, M., Mawenya, L., Barron, J., Mutua, J., and Damgaard-Larsen, S. 2009. Conservation farming strategies in East and Southern Africa: yields and rain water productivity from on-farm action research. Soil and Tillage Research 103:2332.
13Materechera, S.A., and Mloza-Banda, H.R. 1997. Soil penetration resistance, root growth and yield of maize as influenced by tillage system on ridges in Malawi. Soil and Tillage Research 41:1324.
14Thierfelder, C., and Wall, P.C. 2010. Rotation in conservation agriculture systems of Zambia: effects on soil quality and water relations. Experimental Agriculture 46:309325.
15Hobbs, P.R., Sayre, K., and Gupta, R. 2008. The role of conservation agriculture in sustainable agriculture. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Biological Sciences 363:543555.
16FAO, 2011. Conservation Agriculture. 2011–08–09. Available at http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/index.html (accessed July 30, 2012).
17Ngwira, A.R., Aune, J.B., and Mkwinda, S. 2012. On-farm evaluation of yield and economic benefit of short term maize legume intercropping systems under conservation agriculture in Malawi. Field Crops Research 132:149152.
18Haggblade, S., and Tembo, G. 2003. Development, diffussion and impact of Conservation Farming in Zambia. Working Paper No. 8. Food Security Research Project, Lusaka, Zambia. p. 76.
19Giller, K.E., Witter, E., Corbeels, M., and Tittonell, P. 2009. Conservation Agriculture and smallholder farming in Africa: the heretics’ view. Field Crops Research 114:2334.
20Umar, B.B., Aune, J.B., Johnsen, F.H., and Lungu, O.I. 2011. Options for improving smallholder conservation agriculture in Zambia. Journal of Agricultural Sciences 3:5062.
21Thierfelder, C., and Wall, P.C. 2009. Effects of conservation agriculture techniques on infiltration and soil water content in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Soil and Tillage Research 105:217227.
22Sorrenson, W.J., Duarte, C., and Lopez Portillo, J. 1998. Economics of no-tillage compared to traditional cultivation on small farms in Paraguay, Asunción. MAG/GTZ Soil Conservation Project. p. 15.
23Bolliger, A. 2007. Is zero-till an appropriate agricultural alternative for disadvantaged smallholders of South Africa? A study of surrogate systems and strategies, smallholder sensitivities and soil glycoproteins. PhD thesis, University of Copenhagen. p. 67.
24Baudron, F., Tittonell, P., Corbeels, M., Letourmy, P., and Giller, K.E. 2011. Comparative performance of conservation agriculture and current smallholder farming practices in semi-arid Zimbabwe. Field Crops Research 132:117128.
25WRB, 1998. World Reference Base on Soils. FAO-ISRIC, Rome, Italy. p. 88.
26Bewick, L.S., Young, F.L., Alldrege, J.R., and Young, D.L. 2008. Agronomics and economics of no-till facultative wheat in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Crop Protection 27:932942.
27Van Reeuwijk, L.P. 1987. Procedures for soil analysis. International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRC), Wageningen, The Netherlands.
28Anderson, J.M., and Ingram, J.S.I. 1993. Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility: A handbook of Methods. 2nd ed.C.A.B. International, Wallington, UK. p. 221.
29Govaerts, B., Sayre, K.D., and Deckers, J. 2006. A minimum data set for soil quality assessment of wheat and maize cropping in the highlands of Mexico. Soil and Tillage Research 87:163174.
30Thierfelder, C., Amezquita, E., and Stahr, K. 2005. Effects of intensifying organic manuring and tillage practices on penetration resistance and infiltration rate. Soil and Tillage Research 82:211226.
31Coe, R. 2007. Analyzing data from participatory on-farm trials. African Statistical Journal 4:89112.
32Genstat. 2010. GenStat Release 13.3 (GeneStat 13th ed.). VSN International Ltd, Oxford.
33Roth, C.H., Meyer, B., Frede, H.G., and Derpsch, R. 1988. Effects of mulch rates and tillage systems on infitrability and other soil physical properties of an oxisol in Parana, Brazil. Soil Tillage Research 11:8191.
34Derpsch, R. 1988. Effects of mulch rates and tillage systems on infitrability and other soil physical properties of an oxisol in Parana, Brazil. Soil and Tillage Research 1:8191.
35Luo, Z., Wang, E., and Sun, O.J., 2010. Can no-tillage stimulate carbon sequestration in agricultural soils? A meta-analysis of paired experiments. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 139:224231.
36Mtambanengwe, F., and Mapfumo, P. 2005. Organic matter management as an underlying cause for soil fertility gradients on smallholder farms in Zimbabwe. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 73:227243.
37Naudin, K., Gozé, E., Balarabe, O., Giller, K.E., and Scopel, E. 2010. Impact of no tillage and mulching practices on cotton production in North Cameroon: a multi-locational on farm assessment. Soil and Tillage Research 108:6876.
38Silim, S.N., Gwata, E.T., Mligo, J.K., Siambi, M., Karuru, O., King, S.B., and Omanga, P. 2005. Registration of pigeonpea cultivar ‘ICEAP00040’. Crop Science 45:2647.
39Mazuma, E.D.L., Muyombe, M.C., Andersiki, R.B., and Pungulani, L. 2008. Screening cowpea varieties for resistance to predominant cowpea diseases and high yielding ability. DARS Annual Planning Meeting, Mangochi, 14–19 September, 2008, p. 3143.
40Myaka, F.M., Sakala, W.D., Adu-Gyamfi, J.J., Kamalongo, D., Ngwira, A., Odgaard, R., Nielsen, N.E., and Høgh-Jensen, H. 2006. Yields and accummulations of N and P in farmer-managed intercrops of maize-pigeonpea in semi-arid Africa. Plant Soil 285:207220.
41Høgh-Jensen, H., Myaka, F.A., Kamalongo, D., Rasmussen, J., and Ngwira, A., 2006. Effect of environment on multi-element grain composition of pigeonpea cultivars under farmers' conditions. Plant Soil 285:8196.
42Adu-Gyamfi, J.J., Myaka, F.A., Sakala, W.D., Odgaard, R., Vesterager, J.M., and Hoghjensen, H. 2007. Biological nitrogen fixation and nitrogen and phosphorus budgets in farmer managed intercrops of maize-pigeonpea in semi-arid southern and eastern Africa. Plant Soil 295:127136.
43Sakala, W.D., Cadisch, G., and Giller, K.E. 2000. Interactions between residues of maize and pigeonpea and mineral N fertilizers during decomposition and N mineralisation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 32:679688.
44Snapp, S.S., Rohrback, D.D., Simtowe, F., and Freeman, H.A. 2002. Sustainable soil management options for Malawi: can smallholder farmers grow more legumes? Agriculture Ecosystystems and Environment 91:159174.
45Mazvimavi, K., and Twomlow, S. 2009. Socioeconomic and institutional factors influencing adoption of conservation agriculture by vulnerable households in Zimbabwe. Agricultural Systems 101:2029.
46Gowing, J.W., and Palmer, M. 2008. Sustainable agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa: the case for a paradigm shift in land husbandry. Soil Use and Management 24:9299.
47Giller, K.E., Corbeels, M., Nyamangara, J., Triomphe, B., Affholder, F., Scopel, E., and Tittonell, P. 2011. A research agenda to explore the role of conservation agriculture in African smallholder farming systems. Field Crops Research 124:468472.
48Mando, A., Brussaard, L., and Stroosnijder, L. 1999. Termite- and mulch-mediated rehabilitation of vegetation on crusted soil in West Africa. Restoration Ecology 7:3341.
49McGarry, D., Bridge, B.J., and Radford, B.J. 2000. Contrasting soil physical properties after zero and traditional tillage of an alluvial soil in the semi-arid subtropics. Soil and Tillage Research 53:105115.
50Bescansa, P., Imaz, M.J., Virto, I., Enrique, A., and Hoogmoed, W.B. 2006. Soil water retention as affected by tillage and residue management in semiarid Spain. Soil and Tillage Research 87:1927.
51Govaerts, B., Sayre, K.D., Goudedeune, B., De Corte, P., Lichter, K., Dendooven, L., and Deckers, J. 2006. Conservation Agriculture as a sustainable option for the central Mexican highlands. Soil and Tillage Research 103:222230.
52Verhulst, N., Nelissen, V., Jespers, N., Haven, H., Sayre, K.D., Raes, D., Deckers, J., and Govaerts, B. 2011. Soil water content, maize yield and its stability as affected by tillage and crop residue management in rainfed semi-arid highlands. Plant Soil 344:7385.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 29
Total number of PDF views: 749 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 803 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.