Farming systems are moving targets. Agricultural Research and Development (R&D) must understand where they come from and where they are going to offer solutions that are adapted. This is one of the main objectives of the Trajectories and Trade-offs for Intensification of Cereal-based systems (ATTIC), project funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Farming System Ecology group at Wageningen University & Research.
The control of crop pests has long been linked with chemical products like pesticides and insecticides. However, chemicals are often too expensive for smallholder farmers and require careful, appropriate use to ensure effectiveness. What if we could take advantage of natural ecological processes to suppress unwanted organisms, lessening our reliance on external inputs? This is the topic addressed in “Hide and seek: management and landscape factors affecting maize stemborers, Busseola fusca, infestation levels in Ethiopia,” the recent Ph.D. thesis by Yodit Kebede, completed at Wageningen University, Netherlands with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The implications of the research hold significance for prominent pest control challenges like fall armyworm in Africa and beyond.
China is home to 1.3 billion people and faces increasing demand for cereal production, for both human and animal consumption as demand for meat products rises. This large and growing population makes food security and improved cereal yields a national priority.
Farming communities re-shape the landscapes they depend on, with a potentially strong impact on the agro-ecosystem. Efforts to intensify cereal production must take account of the potential trade-offs, and the opportunities opened by an integrated systems approach. The ATTIC project proposes 10 principles for farm systems analysis.
By Pablo Titonell, Professor of Farming Systems, Wageningen University