Assessing agroforestry resilience to climate change in West Africa

Picture copyright Gnonlonfoun et al.

Data is lacking on vulnerability and resilience of different agroforestry systems to climate change. Scientists Gnonlonfoun et al. documented these scientific gaps in West Africa through farmers’ perception. They identified several factors contributing to the resilience of ecological systems. Their knowledge is the first step for designing adaptation strategies in cooperation with local actors.

Managing banana Xanthomonas wilt in Rwanda

Picture copyright Uwamahoro et al.

Xanthomonas wilt is a devastating disease causing great yield losses to banana producers. Scientists Uwamahoro et al. identified several factors influencing disease occurrence in Rwanda: agro-ecological locations, farming practices, farmers’ knowledge, application of disease management strategies, and information distribution channels. The understanding of such factors will facilitate the development of sustainable methods to manage Xanthomonas wilt.

Uncovering root ecology for sustainable nutrient management

Picture copyright Borden and Isaac

In tropical agroforestry systems, the appropriate nutrient prescription is a challenge due to natural environmental heterogeneity and variable nutrient acquisition strategies between species. Scientists Borden and Isaac used a novel approach to monitor root response of cocoa to fertilizers. They showed that the analysis of root trait expression can be used to improve nutrient management in agroforestry systems.

Conversion to organic farming decreases the vulnerability of dairy farms

Picture copyright Delaby, Inra

In the context of the European crisis in conventional milk production, many conventional farms are converting to organic farming at the risk of rendering them vulnerable during and after this conversion. In France, scientists Bouttes et al. studied farm ability to respond to technical, climatic and economic effects of such conversion. They showed that conversion to organic farming can be a powerful mechanism for reducing farm vulnerability.

Increasing productivity while reducing weeds in crop-livestock farms

Picture copyright Schuster et al.

In integrated crop-livestock systems, cover crops provide food for grazing animals but the intensive grazing of the cover crops can increase weed emergence. Scientists Schuster et al. showed that optimizing forage allowances in a grass cover crop grazed by cattle during winter, followed by no-tillage soybean production next summer, suppressed weeds and improved beef and soybean productions.

African smallholder agriculture is ready for mechanization

Picture copyright Baudron et al.

Scientists Baudron et al. used on farm-level data to reveal a much higher demand for mechanization in African smallholder agriculture than was reckoned by previous macroeconomic studies. They also debunked several myths surrounding labor in African farming, such as most of the labor would rely on women, or agricultural tasks would be carried out almost entirely by family labor.

Diversity of conversion strategies for organic vineyards

Picture copyright Walker, Inra

An increasing number of vineyards are converting to organic farming due to concerns about the environmental impacts of agriculture. Change strategies need to be classified to identify the situations requiring the most effort to achieve organic conversion. Scientists Merot et al. classify transition strategies according to a scale of change intensity and speed of changes. This approach improves the understanding of conversion and leads to better support winegrowers during conversion.

Encouraging on farm protein-crop production

Picture copyright Matthieu Carof

Protein crops are rarely grown by European Union farmers although these crops decrease farmers dependency on purchased feed and provide agronomic benefits to cropping systems. Scientists Carof et al. surveyed a group of farmers growing protein crops in western France. They revealed similar yields in organic and conventional systems and highlighted the need to consider protein crop profit at a crop-rotation level. This should encourage protein-crop adoption by farmers.

Transition to legume-based farming systems

Picture copyright Bruneau, Inra

Introducing or increasing legume production on farms is a key issue in many European countries. Scientists Mawois et al. show that transition to high and sustainable levels of legume introduction in French farms requires three levers: (1) the stability of outlets, (2) the knowledge and local references on the preceding crop effect, and (3) the farmer’s involvement in peer networks.

Developing cultivation of perennial forage legumes in marginal lands

Picture copyright S. De Meyer

Perennial forage legume species provide high protein feed to animals and restore soil fertility. However current perennial forage legumes often require re-seeding each time the “perennial phase” is re-established. Scientists Edwards et al. recently introduced the concept of a “perennial ley-farming” system in which the perennial legume self regenerates from a hard seed bank, thus creating a more sustainable agro-ecosystem.