Simple changes to agricultural practices by community-based farmers can lead to dramatic increases in crop yields, Prof Roger Leakey, a leading crop physiologist and tree biologist explains in an informative new webinar.
He advocates a three–step approach to increase crop yields, improve food security and livelihoods using tried and tested techniques.
Prof Leakey, who is vice chair of ITF, outlines his approach in a Foodtank webinar entitled, “The Global Food Crisis: Can we Heal a Divided and Ailing World?”
His starting point is that crop yields in lower income countries are enormously reduced compared with yields for the same crops in the United States and Europe.
For example average maize yields for farmers in Africa are only 1.5 tonnes per hectare, yet the biological potential is seven tonnes per hectare.
The solution, he suggests, is not to try to further improve potential crop yields – but to close the yield gap between low income and high income farmers. He proposes a three-step generic model to achieve this.
“What I’m aiming at is to see if we can reverse the cycle of land degradation and social deprivation so that land rehabilitation drives enhanced livelihoods and enhanced livelihoods drive and land rehabilitation,” he says.
“We are going to be looking at a bottom up approach starting by asking farmers what they actually want from agriculture what they see as main constraints and working then with those communities to try to lead them through a process to close the yield gap and improve their livelihoods.”
One striking example he gives is soil improvement through the simple measure of planting nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs. After just two to three fallow years with leguminous trees or shrubs, maize yields have been improved from 1-2 tonnes per hectare to 4-5 tonnes per hectare.
He says the key is to restore soil fertility while at the same time restoring nutrient and water cycles and enhancing the livelihoods of poor farmers.
“These are three things which I think are not being achieved in developing world by intensive high input mechanized monocultural agriculture,” he says.
View Prof Leakey’s webinar