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Environments 2015, 2(3), 317-337; doi:10.3390/environments2030317

Evidence and Lessons Learned from Long-Term On-Farm Research on Conservation Agriculture Systems in Communities in Malawi and Zimbabwe

1
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office, P.O. Box MP 163, Harare, Zimbabwe
2
Total Land Care, P.O. Box 2440, Lilongwe, Malawi
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Yu-Pin Lin
Received: 27 February 2015 / Revised: 4 June 2015 / Accepted: 16 June 2015 / Published: 30 June 2015
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Abstract

A long-term study was carried out in the Zidyana Extension Planning Area (EPA), Malawi and in the Zimuto Communal Area, Zimbabwe, to evaluate the effect of different conservation agriculture (CA) systems on crop productivity, soil quality and economic performance. Maize productivity results from Zidyana showed that CA systems out-yielded the conventional system in seven out of nine cropping seasons. Labour savings relative to the conventional control ranged from 34–42 labour days ha−1 due to reduced time needed to make manual ridges and for weed control, leading to higher net benefits of 193–444 USD·ha−1. In Zimuto, yield benefits were apparent from the second season onwards and there was a much clearer trend of increased yields of CA over time. Greater net benefits (in USD·ha−1) were achieved on CA systems in Zimuto compared with conventional control treatments due to overall higher yields from CA systems. In Zimuto, both increased infiltration and a gradual increase in soil carbon were recorded, which may have contributed to the greater yield response of CA in this area. In Zidyana, yield increases were attributed primarily to enhanced water infiltration since no increases in soil carbon levels were measured. Farmers highlighted critical challenges to the adoption of CA. These will have to be addressed in future research and extension to provide effective solutions to farmers. View Full-Text
Keywords: maize productivity; direct seeding; soil quality improvements; yield benefits; gross margins; economic benefits; farmer perception maize productivity; direct seeding; soil quality improvements; yield benefits; gross margins; economic benefits; farmer perception
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Thierfelder, C.; Bunderson, W.T.; Mupangwa, W. Evidence and Lessons Learned from Long-Term On-Farm Research on Conservation Agriculture Systems in Communities in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Environments 2015, 2, 317-337.

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