Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Effects of technical interventions on flexibility of farming systems in Burkina Faso: Lessons for the design of innovations in West Africa
Andrieu, N. ; Descheemaeker, K.K.E. ; Sanou, T. ; Chia, E. - \ 2015
Agricultural Systems 136 (2015). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 125 - 137.
crop-livestock systems - sub-saharan africa - climate-change - smallholder farmers - coping strategies - modeling approach - decision-making - constraints - uncertainty - variability
African farmers have always been exposed to climatic and economic variability and have developed a range of coping strategies. Such strategies form part of flexible farm management, an ability that may prove very valuable in the face of future climate change and market dynamics. The generally low productivity of African smallholder farming systems is usually addressed by research and development institutions by a variety of solutions for improving farm performance. However, changes to the system may affect the flexibility of farms and thus their ability to cope with variability. We quantified the added value of being flexible and how this flexibility is affected by technical changes, such as composting and cattle fattening recurrently proposed and promoted by research and development institutions and projects. The study was conducted in two villages of the agro-pastoral area of Burkina Faso, where livestock, cereals and cotton are the main farming activities. A whole-farm simulation model was developed based on information gathered during focus group meetings with farmers and detailed individual monitoring of farmers' practices. The model simulates farmers' decision rules governing the management of the cropping and livestock farm components, as well as crop and livestock production and farm gross margin. Using the existing decision rules, current farm performance was simulated by assessing the cereal balance, the fodder balance and the whole farm gross margin. Then, by comparing the mean and the coefficient of variation of these indicators resulting from (a) the existing decision rules (baseline scenario) and (b) a set of less flexible rules (rigid scenario), the added value of flexible management was revealed. The adoption of composting practices allowed a slight increase in gross margin associated with a decrease in its between-year variability in comparison with conventional practices. Cattle fattening only led to a higher gross margin in the years with high rainfall and low input prices when no management practices were used to limit dependence on external input. This kind of technical change thus requires increased management agility by farmers to deal with climatic and economic variability. We conclude that assessing the impact of technical interventions not only in terms of productivity but also in terms of changes in flexibility is useful for a better understanding of potential adoption of technical changes
Benefits of legume–maize rotations: Assessing the impact of diversity on the productivity of smallholders in Western Kenya
Ojiem, J.O. ; Franke, A.C. ; Vanlauwe, B. ; Ridder, N. de; Giller, K.E. - \ 2014
Field Crops Research 168 (2014). - ISSN 0378-4290 - p. 75 - 85.
soil fertility management - crop-livestock systems - on-farm productivity - soybean glycine-max - cattle manure - sustainable intensification - exploring diversity - semiarid kenya - degraded soils - nitrogen
Agricultural intensification of farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa is a prerequisite to alleviate rural poverty and improve livelihoods. Legumes have shown great potential to enhance system productivity. On-farm experiments were conducted in different agro-ecological zones (AEZ) in Western Kenya to assess the agronomic and economic benefits of promising legumes. In each zone, trials were established in fields of high, medium and low fertility to assess the effect of soil fertility heterogeneity on legume productivity and subsequent maize yield. Common bean, soybean, groundnut, lima bean, lablab, velvet bean, crotalaria, and jackbean were grown in the short rains season, followed by maize in the long rains season. Alongside, continuous maize treatments fertilised at different rates were established. AEZs and soil fertility gradients within these zones greatly affected crop productivity, returns to land and labour of rotations, as well as the relative performance of rotations. Poorer soil fertility and AEZs with lower rainfall gave smaller legume and maize yields and consequently, smaller returns to land and labour. The cultivation of legumes increased maize yields in the subsequent long rains season compared with continuous maize receiving fertiliser at a similar rate, while the increase of maize after green manure legumes was stronger than that after grain legumes. Maize yield responded strongly to increasing amounts of N applied as legume residues with diminishing returns to legume-N application rates above 100 kg N ha-1. In the low potential zones, factors other than improved N availability likely also stimulated maize yield. Rotations with grain legumes generally provided better returns than those with green manures. Intercropping bean with maize in the long rains season provided an additional bean yield that did not come at the expense of maize yield and improved returns to land and labour, but more so in the high potential zones. The results demonstrate the strong impact of biophysical diversity on the productivity of the legumes and suggest the need for careful targeting of legume technologies to the different biophysical conditions.
Analysis of trade-offs in agricultural systems: current status and way forward
Klapwijk, C.J. ; Wijk, M.T. van; Rosenstock, T.S. ; Asten, P.J.A. van; Thornton, P.K. ; Giller, K.E. - \ 2014
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6 (2014)2. - ISSN 1877-3435 - p. 110 - 115.
crop-livestock systems - land-use - conservation agriculture - management-practices - climate-change - africa - strategies - knowledge - resource - science
Trade-off analysis has become an increasingly important approach for evaluating system level outcomes of agricultural production and for prioritizing and targeting management interventions in multifunctional agricultural landscapes. We review the state-of-the-art for trade-off analysis, assessing different techniques by exploring a concrete example of trade-offs around the use of crop residues in smallholder farming systems. The techniques for performing trade-off analyses have developed substantially in recent years aided by mathematical advancement, increased computing power, and emerging insights into systems behaviour. Combining different techniques allows the assessment of aspects of system behaviour via various perspectives, thereby generating complementary knowledge. However, this does not solve the fundamental challenge: trade-off analyses without substantial stakeholder engagement often have limited practical utility for informing practical decision-making. We suggest ways to integrate approaches and improve the potential for societal impact of future trade-off analyses.
Assessing the potential of dual-purpose maize in southern Africa: A multi-level approach
Homann-Kee Tui, S. ; Blümmel, M. ; Valbuena, D.F. ; Chirima, A. ; Maskati, P. ; Rooyen, A.F. van; Kassie, G.T. - \ 2013
Field Crops Research 153 (2013). - ISSN 0378-4290 - p. 37 - 51.
crop-livestock systems - net primary production - sub-saharan africa - water productivity - benefits
This paper explores the potential and challenges of increasing production of food and feed on existing maize fields in mixed crop-livestock systems in the semi-arid areas of southern Africa. It integrates results from different sources of data and analysis: 1. Spatial stratification using secondary data for GIS layers: Maize mega-environments combined with recommendation domains for dual-purpose maize were constructed for Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, stratifying the countries by demand factors (livestock densities and human population densities) and feed availability. Relative biomass contributions to feed resources from rangelands were compared to those from croplands to explore the usefulness of global datasets for feed supply estimations. 2. Verification through farming systems analysis: the potential demand for maize residues as feed (maize cropping patterns, maize yields and uses, feed deficits) was compared at contrasting sites, based on household survey data collected on 480 households in 2010. 3. Maize cultivar analysis: Genotypic variability of maize cultivars was compared to evaluate the potential contribution (stover quantity and quality) of dual-purpose maize to reduce feed deficits. The study results illustrate high spatial variability in the demand for and supply of maize residues. Northern Malawi is characterized by high livestock density, high human population density and high feed availability. Farmers achieve maize yields of more than 2 t/ha resulting in surplus of residues. Although livestock is important, southwest Zimbabwe has low livestock densities, low human populations and low feed availability; farming systems are more integrated and farmers make greater use of maize residues to address feed shortages. Central Mozambique also has low cattle densities, low human populations and low feed availability. More rangelands are available but maize yields are very low and livestock face severe feed shortages. The investigation of 14 advanced CIMMYT maize landraces cultivars and 15 advanced hybrids revealed significant variations in grain and stover yield and fodder quality traits. Where livestock densities are high and alternative feed resources are insufficient, maize cultivars with superior residue yield and fodder quality can have substantial impact on livestock productivity. Cultivars at the higher end of the quality range can provide sufficient energy for providing livestock maintenance requirements and support about 200 g of live weight gain daily. Maize cultivars can be targeted according to primary constraints of demand domains for either stover quantity or stover fodder quality and the paper proposes an approach for this based on voluntary feed intake estimates for maize stover.
Feasibility and competitiveness of intensive smallholder dairy farming in Brazil in comparison with soya and surgarcane: Case study of the Balde Cheio Programme
Monteiro Novo, A.L. ; Slingerland, M.A. ; Jansen, K. ; Kanellopoulos, A. ; Giller, K.E. - \ 2013
Agricultural Systems 121 (2013). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 63 - 72.
crop-livestock systems - biofuel
Technology introduction and the intensive use of resources, particularly in smallholder farming systems, are at the core of debates about future food security and sustainable livelihoods. In Brazil, land use changes promoted by competing agricultural chains require a search for alternative modes of production for family farms. We analyse the technical and economic viability of intensification of dairy farming by smallholders in the “Balde Cheio” (Full Bucket) programme. On average, family farmers who joined the programme increased milk production three-fold whereas at regional level there was a significant reduction of 8% between 2003 and 2009. Comprehensive datasets from São Paulo state and four other regions across Brazil were collated and analysed to explore for whom, how and when intensive dairy production is a feasible option. Data envelopment analysis allowed us to compare inefficiencies among farms and highlight different strategies for technological changes. The empirical evidences in this study indicate the technical viability of the more intense use of resources towards family-based dairy farming systems. Higher productivity was due to a combination of more lactating cows/area (31%), higher productivity/cow (24%), better labour performance (37%) while using less land area (-7%). The gross margin/area almost doubled although milk prices had increased by only 7%. The economic outcome of the intensified systems was on average R$ 3000/ha which was competitive with R$ 600/ha for sugarcane leasing and R$ 700/ha for soybean production. Despite the smaller returns on land, large landowners can have a good household income with sugarcane or soybean, but for smallholders the intensification of dairy is the only option. Compared with the alternative of wage jobs in urban areas, we found it very competitive for 40 out of 50 farmers in the sample in terms of income per family member involved in the production process.
Mitigation of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal operations: III. A review of animal management mitigation options
Hristov, A.N. ; Ott, T. ; Tricarico, J. ; Rotz, A. ; Waghorn, G. ; Adesogan, A.T. ; Dijkstra, J. ; Montes, F. ; Oh, J. ; Kebreab, E. ; Oosting, S.J. ; Gerber, P.J. ; Henderson, B.L. ; Makkar, H.P.S. ; Firkins, J.L. - \ 2013
Journal of Animal Science 91 (2013)11. - ISSN 0021-8812 - p. 5095 - 5113.
greenhouse-gas emissions - crop-livestock systems - recombinant bovine somatotropin - residual feed-intake - different roughage contents - holstein-friesian cows - dry period management - pastoral dairy farms - 2 complete diets - reproductive-performance
The goal of this review was to analyze published data on animal management practices that mitigate enteric methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from animal operations. Increasing animal productivity can be a very effective strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of livestock product. Improving the genetic potential of animals through planned cross-breeding or selection within breeds and achieving this genetic potential through proper nutrition and improvements in reproductive efficiency, animal health, and reproductive lifespan are effective approaches for improving animal productivity and reducing GHG emission intensity. In subsistence production systems, reduction of herd size would increase feed availability and productivity of individual animals and the total herd, thus lowering CH4 emission intensity. In these systems, improving the nutritive value of low-quality feeds for ruminant diets can have a considerable benefit on herd productivity while keeping the herd CH4 output constant or even decreasing it. Residual feed intake may be a tool for screening animals that are low CH4 emitters, but there is currently insufficient evidence that low residual feed intake animals have a lower CH4 yield per unit of feed intake or animal product. Reducing age at slaughter of finished cattle and the number of days that animals are on feed in the feedlot can significantly reduce GHG emissions in beef and other meat animal production systems. Improved animal health and reduced mortality and morbidity are expected to increase herd productivity and reduce GHG emission intensity in all livestock production systems. Pursuing a suite of intensive and extensive reproductive management technologies provides a significant opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. Recommended approaches will differ by region and species but should target increasing conception rates in dairy, beef, and buffalo, increasing fecundity in swine and small ruminants, and reducing embryo wastage in all species. Interactions among individual components of livestock production systems are complex but must be considered when recommending GHG mitigation practices.
Multi-objective optimization and design of farming systems
Groot, J.C.J. ; Oomen, G.J.M. ; Rossing, W.A.H. - \ 2012
Agricultural Systems 110 (2012). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 63 - 77.
crop-livestock systems - simulation-model - organic-matter - trade-offs - management - soil - nitrogen - agriculture - level - mineralization
Reconfiguration of farming systems to reach various productive and environmental objectives while meeting farm and policy constraints is complicated by the large array of farm components involved, and the multitude of interrelations among these components. This hampers the evaluation of relations between various farm performance indicators and of consequences of adjustments in farm management. Here we present the FarmDESIGN model, which has been developed to overcome these limitations by coupling a bio-economical farm model that evaluates the productive, economic and environmental farm performance, to a multi-objective optimization algorithm that generates a large set of Pareto-optimal alternative farm configurations. The model was implemented for a 96 ha mixed organic farm in the Netherlands that represents an example with relevant complexity, comprising various crop rotations, permanent grasslands and dairy cattle. Inputs were derived from a number of talks with the farmers and from literature. After design-, output- and end-user validation the optimization module of the model was used to explore consequences of reconfiguration. The optimization aimed to maximize the operating profit and organic matter balance, and to minimize the labor requirement and soil nitrogen losses. The model outcomes showed that trade-offs existed among various objectives, and at the same time identified a collection of alternative farm configurations that performed better for all four objectives when compared to the original farm. Relatively small modifications in the farm configuration resulted in considerable improvement of farm performance. This modeling study demonstrated the usefulness of multi-objective optimization in the design of mixed farming systems; the potential of the model to support the learning and decision-making processes of farmers and advisers is discussed.
Current and future nitrous oxide emissions from African agriculture
Hickman, J.E. ; Havlikova, M. ; Kroeze, C. ; Palm, C.A. - \ 2011
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 3 (2011)5. - ISSN 1877-3435 - p. 370 - 378.
crop-livestock systems - nitric-oxide - millennium villages - natural savanna - soil emissions - burkina-faso - n2o - kenya - fertilizer - database
Most emission estimates of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) from African agriculture at a continental scale are based on emission factors, such as those developed by the IPCC Guidelines. Here we present estimates from Africa from the EDGAR database, which is derived from the IPCC emission factors. Resulting estimates indicate that N2O emissions from agriculture represented 42% of total emissions from Africa (though that rises to 71% if all savannah and grassland burning is included), or roughly 6% of global anthropogenic N2O emissions (or 11% including burning). Emissions from African agriculture are dominated by grazing livestock; 74% of agricultural N2O excluding biomass burning was from paddocks, ranges, and pasture. Direct soil emissions represent 15% of agricultural emissions; substantial changes in direct emissions from North Africa helped drive a 47% continental increase in direct soil emissions from 1970 to 2005. Future trends based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios indicate that agricultural N2O emissions may double in Africa by 2050 from 2000 levels. Any regional or continental estimates for Africa are, however, necessarily limited by a paucity of direct measurements of emissions in sub-Saharan agro-ecosystems, and the heavy reliance on emission factors and other default assumptions about nitrogen cycling in African agriculture. In particular, a better understanding of livestock-related N inputs and N2O emissions will help improve regional and continental estimates. As fertilizer use increases in sub-Saharan Africa, emission estimates should consider several unusual elements of African agriculture: farmer practices that differ fundamentally from that of large scale farms, the long history of N depletion from agricultural soils, seasonal emission pulses, and emission factors that vary with the amount of N added.
Communicating complexity: Integrated assessment of trade-offs concerning soil fertility management within African farming systems to support innovation and development
Giller, K.E. ; Tittonell, P.A. ; Rufino, M.C. ; Wijk, M.T. van; Zingore, S. ; Mapfumo, P. ; Adjei-Nsiah, S. ; Herrero, M. ; Chikowo, R. ; Corbeels, M. ; Rowe, E.C. ; Baijukya, F.P. ; Mwijage, A. ; Smith, J. ; Yeboah, E. ; Burg, W.J. van der; Sanogo, O. ; Misiko, M. ; Ridder, N. de; Karanja, S. ; Kaizzi, C.K. ; K'ungu, J. ; Mwale, M. ; Nwaga, D. ; Pacini, C. ; Vanlauwe, B. - \ 2011
Agricultural Systems 104 (2011)2. - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 191 - 203.
nutrient use efficiencies - crop-livestock systems - western kenya - smallholder farms - land-use - southern mali - cycling efficiencies - exploring diversity - resource-allocation - dynamics
African farming systems are highly heterogeneous: between agroecological and socioeconomic environments, in the wide variability in farmers’ resource endowments and in farm management. This means that single solutions (or ‘silver bullets’) for improving farm productivity do not exist. Yet to date few approaches to understand constraints and explore options for change have tackled the bewildering complexity of African farming systems. In this paper we describe the Nutrient Use in Animal and Cropping systems – Efficiencies and Scales (NUANCES) framework. NUANCES offers a structured approach to unravel and understand the complexity of African farming to identify what we term ‘best-fit’ technologies – technologies targeted to specific types of farmers and to specific niches within their farms. The NUANCES framework is not ‘just another computer model’! We combine the tools of systems analysis and experimentation, detailed field observations and surveys, incorporate expert knowledge (local knowledge and results of research), generate databases, and apply simulation models to analyse performance of farms, and the impacts of introducing new technologies. We have analysed and described complexity of farming systems, their external drivers and some of the mechanisms that result in (in)efficient use of scarce resources. Studying sites across sub-Saharan Africa has provided insights in the trajectories of change in farming systems in response to population growth, economic conditions and climate variability (cycles of drier and wetter years) and climate change. In regions where human population is dense and land scarce, farm typologies have proven useful to target technologies between farmers of different production objectives and resource endowment (notably in terms of land, labour and capacity for investment). In such regions we could categorise types of fields on the basis of their responsiveness to soil improving technologies along soil fertility gradients, relying on local indicators to differentiate those that may be managed through ‘maintenance fertilization’ from fields that are highly-responsive to fertilizers and fields that require rehabilitation before yields can improved. Where human population pressure on the land is less intense, farm and field types are harder to discern, without clear patterns. Nutrient cycling through livestock is in principle not efficient for increasing food production due to increased nutrient losses, but is attractive for farmers due to the multiple functions of livestock. We identified trade-offs between income generation, soil conservation and community agreements through optimising concurrent objectives at farm and village levels. These examples show that future analyses must focus at farm and farming system level and not at the level of individual fields to achieve appropriate targeting of technologies – both between locations and between farms at any given location. The approach for integrated assessment described here can be used ex ante to explore the potential of best-fit technologies and the ways they can be best combined at farm level. The dynamic and integrated nature of the framework allows the impact of changes in external drivers such as climate change or development policy to be analysed. Fundamental questions for integrated analysis relate to the site-specific knowledge and the simplification of processes required to integrate and move from one level to the next. Keywords: Crop–livestock systems; Soil fertility; Smallholders; Farm types; Simulation modelling
Analysing integration and diversity in agro-ecosystems by using indicators of network analysis
Rufino, M.C. ; Hengsdijk, H. ; Verhagen, A. - \ 2009
Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 84 (2009)3. - ISSN 1385-1314 - p. 229 - 247.
monitoring nutrient flows - crop-livestock systems - farming systems - ecological networks - land-use - economic-performance - ethiopian highlands - information-theory - ecosystems - nutmon
Diversity of farming activities may increase income stability and reduce risks to resource-poor households, while integration¿using the outputs of one activity as input in another activity¿may reduce dependency on external resources. In practice, diversity and integration are poorly defined, and there is no method to characterise them, hampering the exploration of their benefits. We introduce a method based on network analysis (NA) to assess the diversity and integration in farm household systems by using the Finn cycling index to characterise integration of farming activities, and the average mutual information, and the statistical uncertainty (H R) to characterise diversity of flows. We used nitrogen (N) flows in an application of NA to crop-livestock systems of the highlands of Northern Ethiopia. N recycling was low (FCI <3%) in these systems independently of the farm type. Even with improved N management FCI was lower than 10%. Since large amounts of N are withdrawn from the system with the harvests, there are relatively few opportunities for recycling. The diversity in N flows increased from the poor to the wealthier farm households, but differences were small. The wealthier farm households did not recycle more N than the relatively less diverse and poorer farm household. The definition of the system and compartments boundaries must be made explicit in any application of the method as these strongly affect the results. NA appears useful to assess the effects of farm management practices on system performance and to support discussions on diversity and integration of agro-ecosystems
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