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Growing Food – a Guide to Food Production
This comprehensive manual covers details of how to grow food crops in the tropics and sub-tropics, from mung beans to avocados. The author, Tony Winch, worked in agriculture and development aid projects (mostly in Africa) for Oxfam and then the Red Cross. His 333 page manual was published by Springer of the Netherlands in 2007 as a guide for farmers and field workers. Click here to download a pdf version.
Barney Muckle, a practical agriculture engineer living and working in Kenya, has informed us of a new design for an inexpensive jab-planter. The planter consists of two spears connected to tubes with funnels and separated by 50mm to avoid direct contact of the seed and fertiliser. It forms two side-by-side holes in which seed and fertilizer can be placed for optimum utilization. It is simple, being only one stage up from the traditional machete but without any moving parts, yet will plant both seed and fertiliser in a precise manner through the mulch layer into the soil. The new ‘low energy’ requirement design is particularly suitable to women farmers. A single handle is used to control the positioning of the tool while a foot operated pedal forces the spears through the mulch layer into the soil. See the video (click on the 'HAND TOOLS' menu). Downloadable PDF documents of the plans are available, along with some photos and instructions. There are also some simple but effective hand and animal drawn tools which have been developed and can be reproduced by the informal metal working sector artisans, using locally available raw materials. Drawings of many are available as pdf files in black and white in order to reduce the cost of printing. Tom Goddard, Senior Policy Advisor, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
First Conference on Land Policy in Africa
The conference was held in Addis Ababa in November 2014, organised by the African Union. Future Agricultures members and colleagues have written a series of posts for the blog. They explore what the next decade holds for land policy, land rights and the role of foreign investment – and the implications for farmers, communities and agricultural development. Read the articles.
Climate Smart Agriculture/Conservation AgricultureBriefing note from FAO is available online
Smallholders benefit from conservation farming in Nicaragua
In the Nueva Segovia region of Nicaragua, P4P is supporting farmers’ organizations to utilize low-cost, environment-friendly techniques and technologies. These sustainable practices, which include minimal tillage farming and the use of organic materials in soil enrichment, are enabling smallholders to benefit from increased yields, improved crop quality and reduced production costs. Read the article.
Sustainable soil management is more than what & how crops are grown
Read the chapter by TAA members on sustainable soil management, published in the book by Lal and Stewart, 2013: Principles of Sustainable Soil Management in Agroecosystems. Edited by Lal, R. and Stewart, B.A. pp. 337-399. Advances in Soil Science. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, Florida, USA. Chapter 14: Kassam, A., Basch, G., Friedrich, T, Shaxson, F. et al. (2013). Sustainable soil management is more than what and how crops are grown.
Facing climate change and nine billion mouths to feed by 2050, Conservation Agriculture is key to the future of food security. Read more
CA Update Link, Cornell University
The "In the Spotlight” webpages provide links to some of the latest Conservation Agriculture (CA) research papers. They offer search facilities to various research databases that contain good CA papers. New papers will be added every month. Peter Hobbs, Cornell University.
Proceedings from 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture
Presentations and abstracts from the 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture (West Lafayette, Ind. August 2, 2014) – are available on the Conservation Technology Information Center's (CTIC) website. The over 40 presentations and 140 abstracts include subjects such as:
Click here to view the proceedings.
Unploughed fields take edge off heatwaves
‘No-till’ farming — in which seeds are sown into fields without first ploughing them — could help to lower temperatures near croplands by up to 2 °C, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more.
How to prevent the next "Global Dust Bowl"?
The interdisciplinary KULUNDA project is a part of the BMBF research program, ‘Sustainable Land Management’, Module A1 ‘Interaction between land management, climate change and ecosystem services’. The project offers Ecological and Economic Strategies for Sustainable Land Management in the Russian Steppes: A Potential Solution to Climate Change.
Hong Kong Hydroponics Farm Owner Cuts Energy Costs by 25% in his Greenhouse
Henry Ngai Hon-shun, owner of 0.27 hectare hydroponics farm in Hong Kong decided to opt on a solar power to slash his carbon footprint and energy costs by a quarter in his greenhouse. His action comes after warnings from the government that an increase in electricity demand will force prices to rise. Read more in Soilless Newsletter
Evidence on Demand'Evidence on Demand’ is a DFID-supported international development information hub, providing access to quality assured resources relating to climate & environment, infrastructure and livelihoods. The service has been established to provide a wealth of relevant documents, learning resources and technical expertise to help those on the front line of poverty reduction make evidence-based decisions, while also informing the wider development community. Evidence on Demand produces ‘Topic Guides’. A ‘Topic Guide on Agricultural Productivity’ has just been released (directly download here). Topic Guides are freely available, written by an expert in the field, peer reviewed and formally approved by DFID, providing an excellent knowledge resource. Please send feedback on the Guides and any suggestions by email.
Sustainable Intensification and Conservation Agriculture
USDA Helps Landowners Manage for Soil Health & Buffer Drought Effects
Two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions (read more). Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is. "The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.
One percent of organic matter in the top 150 mm of soil can hold about 250 litres of water per hectare. Increasing organic matter increases the holding capacity for water making your land more resilient to extreme weather. NRCS identified four principles that help improve soil health: 1. Keep soil covered as much as possible. 2. Use plant diversity to increase diversity in the soil. 3. Keep living roots in the soil as long as possible. 4. Disturb the soil as little as possible. Managing for soil health can help increase productivity and profits, decrease inputs and improve sustainability for farms and ranches. NRCS has more information on drought resources and soil health. Also, complete information on drought and disaster resources is available on the USDA website.
Promusa - research & development in Bananas
ProMusa, in alliance with ISHS, publishes InfoMus@, the newsletter of the banana R&D community. It offers a mix of news and analyses on topical issues with links to events and resources available from the ProMusa website. If you have problems reading this email, view it in your web browser. Explore Musapedia, the compendium of knowledge on bananas.
No-till and SRI in India
Evaluating conservation agriculture for small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
A special issue on Conservation Agriculture research in the Journal of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment Volume 187, Pages 1-182 (1 April 2014). Open Access Journal . Edited by James R. Stevenson, Rachid Serraj and Kenneth G. Cassman http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01678809/187
First Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture
The joint Declaration of the April 2014 Congress in Lusaka, bears the motto of "Turning Conservation Agriculture Knowledge into Action”, to identify whatever small intervention each of us can make, to enhance adaptation and adoption of CA. The organisers have receive much positive feedback and will soon open an Online Discussion Forum. (Saidi Mkomwa, Executive Secretary, African Conservation Tillage Network).
No-till farming and the Search for Sustainability in Dryland Agriculture
The seminar arranged at IIED London on 28th March 2014 by the TAA LH Group and given by Bill Crabtree on CA experiences in Western Australia is available an IIED blog about the seminar and a video-interview with Bill Crabtree.
Consultative Workshop on Conservation Agriculture
Report of the workshop held in Nairobi in November 2013, organized by the African Conservation Tillage (ACT) Network. Click here to read.
4th International Conservation Agriculture Conference in SE Asia: papers
To access the presentations made at the Conservation Agriculture Conference at the University of Battambang, Battambang, Cambodia, December 9 to 13, 2013, please click here.
Fungi may determine the future of soil carbon.
When scientists discuss global change, they often focus on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and vegetation. But soil contains more carbon than air and plants combined. This means that even a minor change in soil carbon could have major implications for the Earth's atmosphere and climate. New research by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientist Benjamin Turner and colleagues points to an unexpected driver of soil carbon content: fungi. Read more.
Cisgenics - a new GM approach
A new, less intrusive way of genetically engineering plants would help to feed the world’s growing population but is at risk from the same "Luddite attitudes” blocking GM crops, according to a farming industry report.
Rewiring metabolism to improve crop yield in Africa
Enrich Your Soils – Organic Matter Key to Soil Fertility
Farmers and industry are invited to come along to a day of discussion on improving the fertility of soils with an emphasis on organic matter and soil biota.The Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) is running eight events across the East of the country looking at the importance and benefits of organic matter. Read more...
Agriculture Leaders Announce a Partnership to Promote Conservation Agriculture Adoption
UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap
Matt McGrath (BBC News Environment correspondent) reports that the UN says that changing farming practices could play an important role in averting dangerous climate change. In their annual emissions report, they measure the difference between the pledges that countries have made to cut warming gases and the targets required to keep temperatures below 2C. On present trends there is likely to be an annual excess of 8 to 12 giga-tonnes of these gases by 2020. Agriculture, they say, could make a significant difference to the gap, including wider adoption of conservation agriculture.CGIAR Water, Land & Ecosystem Blog Space
Conservation Agriculture cartoon booklet.
This new booklet was edited by
The No-Till Farming Association of Argentina (XXI Congreso AAPRESID) was held from 7 to 9 August in Rosario. Read more. To see the conference on your PC click here or to read an article click here.
Cover crops work. That's the message from the results of a recent study. Last year's drought gutted corn and soybean yields. But that yield hammer was much lighter on those crop acres that were preceded by a cover crop. The study, conducted by the USDA North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), sought opinions from more than 750 farmers in the Corn Belt on cover crops, how widely they're adopted, their payback and challenges. Read more
Norman Uphoff presents seminar on SRI at TAA-IIED seminar, London 4th July 2013. Click to read the summary
Researchers create online tool to estimate greenhouse gas reductions through Conservation Agriculture. Read more
Up-dated Conservation Agriculture Data Base in AquaStat, FAO The CA land area data base has been updated based on the feedback received from our regular sources of information and has been posted in AquaStat. The latest figures can be seen at the FAO CA-Website at (http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/6c.html).
AFRICAN CONSERVATION TILLAGE NETWORK
Partnering for improved food security, a better environment and regional development
May 2013 – Updates and Hottest Issues
The two weeks training-cum-study tour on Farm Mechanization for African Stakeholders was carried out under the auspices of The Farm Mechanization & Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI) project with the objective to identify opportunities to transfer Indian technologies and Indian expertise to Africa.
Thedelegation comprises participants sampled from private sector players(importers, manufacturers); researchers; academia; and non-governmental organizations – all stakeholders to the FACASI project. These included participants from Ethiopia (4), Kenya (4), Tanzania (4), Zimbabwe (3), Regional (ACT), and the CIMMYT FACASI project Coordinator. Highlights of the trip are:
The Indian Universities have been effectively linking manufacturers, importers and farmers; acting as hubs for technology development.
India has a manufacturers’ association with a political voice which can/does influence policies in favour of the industry.
Developed technologies are effectively extended to farmers through scaling out models including farmers’ cooperatives sometimes specialised in mechanised equipment hire services.
Research focus - to concentrated action centres/zones and areas of excellence such as soil sodicity /salinity - is a key driver to the successful introduction of sustainable agriculture.
Government support to farming is very strong in India. Examples include: free electricity (for pumping irrigation water in the 2 states); VAT exempt on machinery; subsidies on mechanization and irrigation equipment; and government purchase of farmers’ produce at profitable prices.
It is argued that that the Indian Green Revolution took place only in the Punjab and Haryana States! What does Africa have to learn from this knowledge?
ICAR is desirous to further the south-south collaboration for the longer-term mechanization of farming in Africa. The leadership of CIMMYT & ACIAR through FACASI comes at an opportune time.
More info+: Highlights of South-South Trip Report to India; available at: http://act-africa.org/file/20130612_lessons_learnt_facasi_trip_to_india_may_2013.pdf Indian Council for Agricultural Research website: http://www.icar.org.in/en/node/6044
CA-CoP CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE for sustainable production intensification
View all up-dates and alerts for the CA-COP on the FAO website, click here
Alert No. 37 (22 December 2014)
3. Comparative advantages of Conservation Agriculture based rice-wheat rotation systems under water and salt dynamics typical for the irrigated arid drylands in Central Asia. By K.P. Devkota et al. European Journal of Agronomy 62: 98-109 (2015)(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S116103011400121X)
4.Mineral nitrogen dynamics in irrigated rice-wheat system under different irrigation and establishment methods and residue levels in arid drylands of Central Asia. By K.P. Devkota et al. European Journal of Agronomy47: 65-76 (2014)
7.Combining permanent beds and residue retention with nitrogen fertilization improves crop yields and water productivity in irrigated arid lands under cotton, wheat and maize. By M. Devkota et al. Field Crops Research 149: 105-114 (2013)
8.The spread of Conservation Agriculture: Policy and institutional support for adoption and uptake. By A.H. Kassam et al. Field Action Science Reports Vol. 7 (2014)(http://factsreports.revues.org/3720)
12.Sustainable intensification in agricultural systems. By Jules Pretty and Zareen Bharucha. Annals of Botany (2014) (doi:10.1093/aob/mcu205, available at: www.aob.oxfordjournals.org)
14.Long term effects of cover crops on crop yields, soil organic carbon stocks and sequestration. By Kenneth Olson et al. Open Journal of Soil Science 4: 284-292 (2014)(http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojss.2014.48030)
19. Ukraine: Soil fertility to strengthen climate resilience – Preliminary assessment of the potential benefits of Conservation Agriculture. By Turi Fileccia et al. FAO Investment Centre and World Bank
21. Up-dating Conservation Agriculture Data Base in AquaStat, FAO
The CA land area data base is updated periodically based on the feedback received from our regular sources of information and is posted in AquaStat. The latest figures can be seen at the FAO CA-Website at (http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/6c.html).