Systems intensification: crop/livestock systems

Photo credit: ILRI

Photo credit: ILRI

Africa and Asia are largely dominated by smallholder farmers, who often combine crop and livestock production in mixed farming systems. The crop-livestock combination offers farmers a more diverse source of food and income, reducing risk, diversifying labor use and recycling resources (FAO, 2001). Despite such complementarities, smallholder mixed systems often face numerous challenges and constraints, linked to often limited resources such as land, labor, capital, competing demands and limited access to livelihood enhancement opportunities.

The inherent nature of mixed systems often implies competing uses of crop residues since they are not only used as feed but also as mulch/soil amendments, fuel and construction material, both within the mixed farm and/or by others.

Introducing maize stover, the above-ground biomass left after grain harvest, into India’s commercial dairy systems could mitigate fodder shortages and halt increasing fodder costs, according to new research by CIMMYT and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The two organizations collaborated on the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia project (CSISA), which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as well as MAIZE. Their study shows that while significant variations exist among maize cultivars in terms of their stover quantity and fodder quality, stover from some high-yielding popular hybrids is at par or even better value with the best sorghum stover traded. Sorghum stover supports much of the urban and near-urban dairy production in peninsular India.

Further reading:

September 2013 special issue of Field Crops Research (edited by Elaine Grings, Olaf Erenstein and Michael Blümmel)

Maize stover: an underutilized resource for rainfed India