Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) analysed potential trade-offs in maize residue use as soil mulch and livestock feed in mixed crop-livestock systems in Kenya. Based on survey data, researchers found that both the proportion and quantity of maize residue used for soil mulch and livestock feed are strongly affected by agro-ecology and livestock holding. Farmer knowledge about alternative use of crop residues and farmer perception of soil erosion risk positively affect the amount of residue farmers retain on maize plots. Results imply that crop residue use as soil mulch in conservation agriculture is challenged in mixed crop-livestock systems and particularly by smallholder farmers owning cross-bred and exotic dairy animals. In general, reducing the demand for crop residues as livestock feed through the introduction of alternative feed sources, better extension services on the use of crop residue as soil mulch and designing agro-ecology specific strategies and interventions could facilitate the adoption and expansion of CA-based practices in mixed crop-livestock systems.

The whole document is available from the AgEcon website

This week in the session of Food Security of the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Diego Valbuena presented the preliminary results of the SLP residue project. Focusing on biomass use and pressures in mixed crop-livestock systems, the main messages of this presentation were that:

  • Mixed systems are dynamic and diverse, with different options and challenges
  • Pressures on crop residues needs to look at both production and demand
  • Trade-offs between livelihoods and ecosystem services can be avoided
  • System research is useful to better understand pressure and options on residue/biomass, but we need more participatory, integrated and coordinate research

The presentation is available on SlideShare:

SLP East Africa team continues presenting preliminary results of the project on crop residue trade-offs. This time Kindu Mekonnen (ILRI-Ethiopia) will present a poster at the CIALCA International Conference held next week in Rwanda. The presented study concludes that “the three study sites in east Africa are found at different crop-livestock intensification level because of variability in rainfall, adoption of crop and livestock technologies, and access to input/output markets. Dealing with some of the constraints that affect crop and livestock production could lead to a more sustainable intensification of crop-livestock farming in the East African highlands”.

This poster is available from Slideshare

The SLP regional team in Southern Africa writes:

“SLP Southern Africa presented the first results of the SLP-Southern Africa regional case study at the 10th African Crop Science Society Conference, 10-13 October 2011 in Maputo. Elizabeth Bandason, Bunda College Malawi, illustrated the special case of mixed crop livestock systems and crop residue uses in Mzimba district, Northern Malawi. Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, ICRISAT Zimbabwe, used comparative farming systems analysis to illustrate the different stages of crop livestock intensification at the project sites in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and to determine site specific entry points for interventions.

The team was awarded for second best paper – the key messages in the paper are:

Mixed crop-livestock systems in semi-arid southern Africa are a function of the interplay between agro-ecological conditions, human population densities, local and national drivers: The sites in Zimbabwe and Mozambique show a strong growth potential in livestock; markets need to be improved to enhance impact; interventions in Malawi can learn from this. The Malawian case shows that investment in agricultural inputs pays off; government support can kick-start this. Livestock production and market development can lead to greater crop-livestock integration and cross-subsidization, sustainable intensification. Development programs should take recognizance of mixed farming systems in the context of local and national drivers, and align interventions with those factors as well as with farmers’ aspirations and resource endowments”.

Elizabeth’s presentation is available from Slideshare

Sabine’s presentation is also available from Slideshare


SLP was part of the 5th WCCA & 3rd FSD held in Brisbane, Australia last week. Diego Valbuena (SLP Postdoc Scientist) gave an overview on the crop residue use in different mixed crop-livestock systems across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This presentation reflects the current analysis and synthesis of the village-level data of the SLP Crop Residue project. The main points of this presentation were that:

  • Crop residues in mixed systems are fundamental resources for short-term objectives, especially for livestock feed.
  • Residues as mulch is not a common practice, mainly occurring in regions with relatively very high crop production or with high crop production and relatively low feed demand. In regions with high pressure on residues, an increase of agricultural production is needed.
  • There are no silver-bullets: each region has its own potential, challenges & options for more sustainable agriculture.

Finally, the presentation shows the next steps of the SLP Crop Residue project.

The presentation is available from the Slideshare website

Kindu Mekonnen, SLP associate researcher of the East Africa team writes:

“Biomass is a crucial resource for smallholder farmers. Crop residues form an important source of biomass but there are competing demands for its use. The key trade-off is between use of crop residue for feeding of livestock and retaining residues on the field to sustain soil fertility. This issue has formed the basis of a global research project on trade-offs in residue use in smallholder systems. In East Africa, the research has focused on two sites in Ethiopia and one in Kenya.

As part of this research a village survey was conducted each site with the objective understanding diversified and competing uses of crop residues; analyze past trends of uses of crop residues; and identify production and utilization constraints of crop residues. A total of 8 villages per site were surveyed in two sites in Ethiopia (Kobo and Nekemte) and one site in western Kenya (Kakamega).

The most important findings from the research so far are (1) The use of crop residues for animal feed (stall feeding and direct grazing) surpassed the other competing uses in all the sites; (2) The practice of mulching crop fields using crop residues has declined in the last 10 years in the three sites because of competing use of the resources for various services and products; (3) Soil/land related problems, weed, insect and pests, high input/low output prices, poor distribution of rainfall/drought and lack of information/services are some of the constraints associated with low crop productivity and production of crop residues; and (4) Lack of modern crop residue processing technologies limited the efficient utilization of crop residues in the three sites.

The pressure on residue use and the decline in its use as a mulch raise serious concerns for system sustainability. Our next task will be to look at policy, institutional and technical options for reducing pressure on biomass in smallholder systems for the long term benefit of poor smallholders.

We will present this work at the International Congress: Water 2011– Integrated water resources management in tropical and subtropical dry-lands. The congress will be held from 19 to 26 September 2011 in Mekele, Ethiopia. The title of our presentation is “Competing uses, dynamics, and production and utilization constraints of crop residues in East Africa: Implications for conservation agriculture”.

This presentation is available from Slideshare

These proceedings are an important source of information for animal and crop scientists working on the challenges of feeding the developing world’s rapidly rising livestock population and improving the productivity of its agriculture. It is hoped that, by collaborating more closely, these scientists will be able to develop the innovative approaches and new technologies needed in the next century

Pdf book available from ICRISAT website

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