During the December 2009 SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, Mark van Wijk (WUR) and colleagues presented some modelling work that could help quantify the tradeoffs between uses of crop residues – either incorporated in the soil to maintain soil fertility or fed to cattle.

He emphasizes that the models help to quantify the consequences – ‘what if’ – of different decisions or strategies.

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Reporting on his research project at the December 2009 SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, Tahirou Abdoulaye (IITA) explains:

“What is clearly coming out is the role of market where feed markets, crop residue markets, are emerging … and the immediate benefit is for farmers to give more of their crop residues to their livestock because the other gains, in terms of soil fertility, tend to be more long term oriented, and farmers tend to focus more on the short term gains.”

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Speaking at the December 2009 SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, Tilahun Amede (ILRI/IWMI) argues that livestock, although both a major source of livelihoods and user of water, are overlooked in policy-making on water productivity.

This IWMI/ILRI research project in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe aims to understand the dynamics – and the strategies – that can improve water and livestock productivity, while minimizing land degradation.

He shares three lessons emerging: First, that we need to improve the integration of crop and livestock; second, we meed to move policies from sectoral to integrated ones; and third, we need to ensure that the many useful technologies that exist actually reach the farmers.

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See a related video by Katrien Descheemaeker.

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During the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme Livestock Policy Group Meeting on 1 December 2009, Olaf Erenstein (CIMMYT) presented the results of work in India.

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On 1 December 2009, Dennis Friesen (CIMMYT) presented CIMMYT work on maize as a livestock feed to the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme Livestock Policy Group Meeting.

The starting point of the research was the recognition that maize stover (residues) is important as livestock feed in Eastern Africa, however, stover traits are not an important priority in maize breeding. The project sought to:

  • understand the influence of livestock related factors on farmers choice of maize cultivars.
  • identify superior dual-purpose maize cultivars from existing maize germplasm for diverse agro-ecological zones.
  • define opportunities and strategies for further genetic enhancement towards dual-purpose maize.
  • develop new tools for quick and economical on-field assessments of stover fodder value in crop improvement work.
  • propose additional selection criteria for variety releasing agents that take into consideration stover quality

As conclusions, he presented 4 ‘principles’:

  • Current release criteria with focus on grain remain important
  • Stover traits are additional criteria not substituting criteria
  • Go for win-win situations
  • Facilitate optimization of whole plant utilization (also beyond fodder)

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Speaking at the December 2009 SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, Michael Peters (CIAT), introduced a project in Nicaragua to study tradeoffs between using specific forage plants either as feeds for animals or for soil improvement and soil fertility maintenance.

The project explores three issues: feed for cows, soil fertility, and longer term sustainability. The aim of the research is for the farmer to go from a “no-win to a win-win situation.”

Peters emphasizes that the farmers themselves are aware of the tradeoffs and will sometimes aim for a production effect (for cattle), and at other times for an environmental effect (on their soils).

One interesting dimension is that “we as researchers have to caution sometimes the farmers not to be too enthusiastic” about the new technology they co-created…

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Bruno Gerard, Coordinator of the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) introduces the SLP and a major topic of discussion at the December 2009 meeting of its Livestock Programme Group: Researching tradeoffs between the uses of residues for livestock and for soil improvement.

The meeting is “very much on pressure on biomass use in systems.” It looks especially at tradeoffs in the use of crop residues – they can be used to feed livestock, or to sustain soils and prevent erosion. It concerns choices in investment between the immediate return of using residues to feed livestock and longer term sustainability returns.

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