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Soil Quality Assessment of Zero Tillage Wheat/Maize Trials in the Highlands of Mexico

Bram GOVAERTS student laureate
bgovaerts@CIMMYT.exch.cgiar.org

°1979 Belgium
Bio-engineer in environmental technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2003

Soil Quality Assessment of Zero Tillage Wheat/Maize Trials in the Highlands of Mexico

The results of the experiments carried out at the CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico on this dissertation topic, which Bram Govaerts presented at the university of Leuven, are of very great relevance to development.
They show that in the Highlands of Mexico a rotating zero tillage* system of maize and wheat with retention of the agricultural residues improves the quality of the soil and provides stable produce in the long term. The produce obtained by this method is superior to that yielded by other cultural practices, especially conventional agriculture, which is, moreover, less preferable to this innovation, particularly when it comes to surviving drought.
The originality and utility of this work consists mainly in the fact that it has developed a collection of soil indicators to evaluate its quality, because zero tillage is not a technology that is appropriate to all soils and climates.
On the basis of these indicators, the author sees the possibility of applying the results of his research not only in Mexico but also in other tropical mountainous countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya. Thus Govaerts’s work gains international importance and is firmly inscribed in the process of struggle against hunger in the countries of the South.
It is also a remarkable contribution to the improvement of the quality of the environment. The elimination of ploughing not only saves energy but also preserves the soil better. No technique has a similar efficiency in stopping erosion in agricultural ecosystems. In addition, the preservation of the soil structure and the minimizing of additions to the soil can spare living beings (ground fauna,…) and their interrelationships.
Such an innovation, which contributes, moreover, to significantly reconciling the increase of foodstuff production with the protection and improvement of the soil capital, adds an important building block to the edifice of sustainable development, the principal concern of development cooperation.

* Agriculture having as main principles the absence of ploughing and the minimizing of additions to the soil
 

report by Dr F. Habiyaremye Muhashy Kayagwe, Department of Agricultural and Forest Economy, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium