CIMMYT and Wageningen University are looking for three highly motivated and inquisitive PhD candidates to investigate the development trajectories of cereal-based systems in Mexico, South Asia and Ethiopia, major drivers of change, and impacts on agroecosystem processes across spatial and temporal scales. This knowledge will be used to analyse and explore how promising technological and institutional innovations targeting sustainable intensification can more effectively improve rural livelihoods and environmental quality in these agro-ecosystems to better inform development actions and policy.

For more information click here

SLP has been strengthening links with different academic institutions. The result of these links has been a small set of internships, BSc or MSc thesis with various universities. Research topics are diverse trying to investigate the complexity of mixed crop-livestock farming systems from different but complementary disciplines, tools and scales. Topics include: biomass production and management; chronosequences, land-use/cover and soils evolution; and remote sensing,  NDVI analyses and R scripting.

Crop residue management and farm productivity in smallholder crop-livestock system of dry land North Wollo, Ethiopia (Hailu Terefe, Wageningen University, The Netherlands).

The objective of this study is to explore and analyze crop residue and manure management practices and their influence on farm productivity. Data collection and analyses include farmer resource allocation and socio-economic by semi-structured questionnaire; biomass production, N content and digestibility of crop residues and soil nutrients; and crop-growth simulations to explore the influence of crop residue management use on farm production. The results show that nutrient contents and physical structures of arable plots are declining. Modelling results suggest that to reverse this situation, farmers should retain about 70% of crop residues in the field; but retention should ensure incorporation into the soil. To achieve this strong interventions are needed.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

Development of an open source tool to analyze Vegetation Index from Remote Sensing data (Romain Frelat, INSA, France).

During this internship, I have developed a free package in R to conduct automated analysis of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from different optical satellite instruments (AVHRR and Spot Vegetation). Land Surface Phenology metrics can be easily computed from points or polygons generated either in GIS software (shp) or Google Earth (kml). Metrics and vegetation anomaly maps are calculated for every cropping season to support the study vegetation dynamics in agricultural landscapes.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

R package available from CRAN

Evolution de l’occupation des terres en lien avec les caractéristiques physico-chimiques du sol dans un village pres de Nekemte, Ethiopie (Matthieu Crespin, UCL, Belgium).

C’est dans ce but que ce travail, réalisé à l’échelle du village, devrait permettre de quantifier et de comparer la qualité des sols pour des occupations et des situations topographiques différentes : cultures, pâturages, forêts d’une part et vallées, pentes et sommets d’autre part. Il devrait également permettre de tracer l’évolution de la fertilité pour des sols de forêt jusqu’à des sols convertis à la culture et ce pour trois groupes d’âges différents.

Smallholders in mixed crop–livestock systems make up a large proportion of the farming enterprises in developing countries. In these systems, crop residues are an important component of production since they have multiple uses including livestock feed, construction materials, cooking fuel and organic fertilizer for the fields.

Mixed crop–livestock systems are very dynamic and are evolving rapidly in response to external drivers such as demographic pressure, development of urban markets, climate variability and climate change. In addition, recent interest in biofuels has further implications for land use and resource allocation.

This study aims to improve understanding of the tradeoffs among different crop residue uses in cereal-based systems in four regions: millet-, sorghum-, and maize-based systems in West Africa; maize-based systems in eastern Africa, maize- and sorghum-based systems in southern Africa; and wheat/rice-based systems in South Asia. The major trade-off in most systems is the short-term benefit gained from using crop residues to feed livestock versus the longer-term benefit gained from leaving crop residues in the field to improve soil fertility and control erosion.

The study focuses on decision-making processes at the farm and household level and the findings will capture the diversity and contrasts as well as recent changes in crop residue uses at various scales. The results will help decision makers to target technical, institutional and policy options to improve livelihoods, without compromising the long-term sustainability of these farming systems.

Project Flyer

Newsletter July 2010

Newsletter August 2010

Newsletter September 2010

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will support the 5th WCCA and 3rd FSD be held in Australia in September 2011.

The combination of 5th WCCA and 3rd FSD effort brings a unique opportunity to discuss the application of conservation agriculture principles from a farming systems perspective. At this meeting we will discuss conservation agriculture principles in both large-scale, high-tech commercial farms, and small-scale low-cost smallholder farms from developing regions in the world in the context of food security concerns, increasing food demand and climate change.

The Congress expects to attract over 700 scientists, students, farm managers, policy makers, conservationists and others interested in sustainability, conservation and farming systems.

For more info

Volume 32, Issue 1, Pages 1-120 (January 2010)

This special issue is the product of the First International Symposium on Farming Systems Design organized in September 2007 in Catania, Italy by the European and American Societies for Agronomy (ESA and ASA), the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society and the International Farming Systems Association.

The challenge is ‘to produce methods and tools that can be used locally by applied researchers and extension specialists to adapt cropping systems in collaboration with farmers…
From mono-criteria to multi-criteria design. Even if the production function of cropping systems remains a major pillar of sustainability in many regions of the world, it has to be combined with an increasing number of other assessment criteria related to the negative externalities, environmental and social services of agriculture.
From field scale to multi-scale design. For several of the processes to be manipulated in the design of these multi-functional cropping systems, the proper scale at which they operate is often larger than field scale. Examples are the landscape scale for disease management or the farm scale for socio-economics. The challenge of agronomic research is to keep the field as the biophysical unit of crop management, while developing methods and knowledge for up- and down-scaling with the traditional (farm) and new (landscape, watershed, natural ecosystems) embedding and contextual aspects of cropping systems.
From stable to unstable environment. Designing new cropping systems is a long process and it occurs in a rapidly changing environment. This is exemplified by climate but also by the economy (prices and policies) and the changing demands and functions that society assigns to agricultural systems. The design process has therefore to integrate objectives of the resilience and flexibility of cropping systems in an unpredictable environment.’ J. Wery,  and J.W.A. Langeveld, guest editors