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Wagneingen University (2009)

Cassava and soil fertility in intensifying smallholder farming systems of East Africa

Fermont Anneke Marijke

Titre : Cassava and soil fertility in intensifying smallholder farming systems of East Africa

Auteur : Anneke Marijke Fermont

Université de soutenance : Wagneingen University

Grade : PhD thesis 2009

This thesis focuses on cassava production in the mid altitude zone of East Africa, an area characterized by high population densities, bimodal rainfall patterns and relatively poor soils. The overall aim was to better understand the roles and production constraints of cassava in order to explore opportunities to improve the productivity and sustainability of intensifying cassava-based smallholder farming systems in East Africa. Increasing land pressure has changed agricultural landscapes from traditional millet-, cotton-, sugarcane- or banana-based systems with an important fallow component to continuously, cultivated cassava-based systems. Cassava cultivation on cropped fields increased from 1-11 to 16-55% in three to four decades as farmers believe that cassava improves soil fertility for the subsequent crop and increasingly target cassava to low fertility soils when land pressure increases. The substantial increase in cassava cultivation has allowed farmers to postpone intensification of crop management, but it seems that the elasticity of the traditionally low-input systems is coming to an end as production of the two most important crops (cassava and maize) is limited by nutrients. Farmers in areas of high land pressure have started to adopt fertilizer and manure and to improve crop management. Contrary to existing generalizations, cassava is not a food security crop for poorer farmers in East Africa, but an important food and cash crop for farmers from all wealth classes. Average farm income was not less than in other farming systems in the region, while average food security was higher (>10 months year-1) than in maize-based systems. Cassava is also not predominantly grown as an intercrop, as is often thought, nor is it grown without inputs, because farmers commonly use hired labour and improved genotypes. In addition, its labour requirements are higher than commonly assumed (287 man days ha-1), due to large requirements for weed control. Existing generalizations concerning cassava are therefore either false or half truths and a continued belief in them will hamper the effectiveness of policy and development efforts aimed at improving cassava production. Efforts to increase cassava production in cassava-based farming systems will, for example, improve its scope for commercialization, but will not significantly enhance food security. Average farmer yields for cassava (7-12 t ha-1) are far below attainable yields on farm (30-50 t ha-1). Still, on-farm yields are highly variable. Largest yields were obtained on farms with high labour availability, fertile soils, good weed management and timely (not too early) harvesting. An improved technology package more than doubled average yields in farmer fields, whereby the largest yield increase for a single technology was observed with 100-22-83 kg ha-1 N-P-K fertilizer. Multivariate analysis identified soil fertility, rainfall and weed management as the most important production constraints, while biotic factors were less important. Many fields were affected by multiple and interacting production constraints. Fertilizer responses were governed by the same, interacting factors influencing unfertilized cassava production. Genotype and biotic factors did not influence fertilizer response. Closing the considerable yield gap between actual and attainable cassava yields at farm level, can not be achieved by integrated pest management and breeding alone. Instead, research and development organizations should focus on addressing the whole range of interacting production constraints through the development and evaluation of integrated management packages. Improving cassava production will be more difficult for poorer than for wealthier farmers, as the first have less social and financial capital and less fertile soils and are therefore more likely to face multiple production constraints. The positive impact of cassava on soil fertility perceived by farmers is supported by model simulations and nutrient balances that indicate that cassava may improve SOC contents of low fertility soils compared with maize and contribute to higher N recycling through crop residues. Adoption of higher yielding genotypes and improved production practices will improve yields and increase nutrient removal rates, but may simultaneously have a positive effect on SOC contents and nutrient recycling rates. Improving cassava stem management after harvesting seems an interesting option to improve sustainability of the system. This thesis concludes that there is an urgent need to invest in agronomy and ISFM research and to reform existing research for developments programmes with a strong emphasis on breeding and IPM into integrated programmes that are able to address the multiple production constraints of cassava and thereby significantly contribute to improving the livelihoods of smallholder cassava farmers.

Mots Clés : manihot esculenta, cassave, bodemvruchtbaarheid, agronomie, bedrijfssystemen, systeemanalyse, voedselzekerheid, kunstmeststoffen, kenya, uganda, manihot esculenta, cassava, soil fertility, agronomy, farming systems, systems analysis, food security, fertilizers, kenya, uganda et Cassave


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Page publiée le 21 octobre 2009, mise à jour le 31 décembre 2017