Agriculture involves a difficult balance between food production and environmental impact. For example, fertilisers can help to achieve good crop yields, but over-using them produces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.Ecological Practices are making a Difference in African farming sector.

Ecological Practices are making a Difference in African farming sector

Some of these impacts also threaten future agricultural production. Greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, contribute to climate change and increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. To sustain agriculture, then, it is necessary to minimise the use of inputs like fertilisers, and support crop growth in other ways. One approach is through increasing ecological functioning within farms. Ecological Practices, This means enhancing relationships between different on-farm organisms, including crops, livestock, microbes, and wild plants and animals. Using these relationships to support crop yields is called “ecological intensification”. Previous research has shown that ecological intensification can be effective. But studies have only been done over short timescales of just a few years, whereas the effects of agricultural practices often take longer to become clear.

Variation in weather between years can obscure effects in the short term, and some ecological processes take several years to stabilise. In a recent study, my colleagues and I explored whether long-term studies also support ecological intensification. To answer this, we sought out 30 long-term experiments from around Europe and Africa. We used these experiments to look at whether ecological intensification could reduce the need for two inputs: nitrogen fertiliser and tillage. We found that ecological intensification can partly replace fertilisers to support crop yields, because both ecological intensification and fertilisers increase soil nutrients. So farmers could use ecological intensification to reduce fertiliser use while maintaining the same yields. Farmers who already used low or no fertiliser could increase their yields. Ecological intensification could also increase yields whether farmers were ploughing or using no-till farming. This was because tillage and the ecological practices we tested had different functions, and contributed to crop yields in different ways. Overall, ecological intensification can help balance food production and environmental impacts by reducing high fertiliser use without reducing yields. And it can supplement low inputs to boost yields in poor, remote communities where inputs are expensive or hard to access.

Source: This news is originally published by allafrica

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