Call edition 2012

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Understanding With-in Season Crop Performance in Maize-Wheat Farming Systems in the Semi-Arid Highlands of Mexico

Pieter DE CORTE student laureate

°1982 Belgium
Bio-engineer in Land and Forest Management, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2005

Understanding With-in Season Crop Performance in Maize-Wheat Farming Systems in the Semi-Arid Highlands of Mexico

The study was conducted in a region where the degree of slope of the land, poor soil cover, the working of the soil and the over-cultivation of maize often give rise to run-off, intensive erosion, poor use of water and low and irregular yields. Some of the foremost ways to bring improvement include crop rotation, reduction in the working of the soil and the management of crop residues, e.g. straw, which can be gathered for fodder or left on the ground as cover.

A technique involving a portable sensor as a tool is used to calculate, as the crops are growing, an index that bears a good relation to the yields. On experimental parcels of land comparing various crop rotations, contrasting methods of working the soil (including zero-tillage or direct seeding) and ways of dealing with crop residues (straw left to cover the soil, all or part of the straw gathered for fodder), this index has been shown to be able to play a part, alongside other indices, in the evaluation of different soil management systems and to enable deficiencies occurring during cultivation to be corrected.

The techniques developed and validated in this region of Mexico can easily be extrapolated to other regions in the world, particularly through the collaboration between international institutes and local partners. This study contributes to the efforts to improve what has become known as conservation agriculture, i.e. the methods that work towards ensuring productivity and profitability of the agricultural systems, and increased sustainability of natural resources, in this case mainly soil conservation and the increase in the fertility of the soil.

report: Prof. A. Falisse, Phytotechnic Unit – Temperate Regions, Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux, Belgium