81 research outputs found

    Assessment of sorghum–cowpea intercrop system under waterlimited conditions using a decision support tool

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    Intercropping can improve crop productivity through increased water use efficiency (WUE). However, limited information exists to support its adoption and subsequent management. In such instances, crop models can be used as decision support tools to complement data from field trials. The Agricultural Production Systems Simulator Model (APSIM) was used to develop best management practices for improved yield and WUE for a sorghum–cowpea intercrop system for 5 sites in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Richards Bay, Umbumbulu, Deepdale, Wartburg and Ukulinga. Each site represented 1 of 5 different bio-resource units. Planting dates (trigger season climate method, modelling and fixed date approaches), fertilizer rates (0, 50 and 100% recommended N rate), plant population (50% less and 50% more, for either sorghum or cowpea) and irrigation (deficit irrigation and rainfall-based  approaches) were considered. In Deepdale, planting dates generated by the model gave high  (952.2±85 and 326.3±68 kg∙ha-1) and stable yields for sorghum and cowpea, respectively. Adding  100% fertilizer improved both yield and WUE of the intercrop by 18.5 and 5.1%, respectively, in Umbumbulu and Wartburg. Across all environments, sorghum and cowpea plant populations of 39 000 and 13 000 plants∙ha-1, respectively, increased yield (26.11%) and WUE (15.54%) of the intercrop system. Deficit irrigation was more effective resulting in yield (12.84%) and WUE (11.09%)  improvements. It is concluded that APSIM can be used to develop best management practices to assist in developing guidelines for improving productivity of intercrop systems under water-scarce conditions.Keywords: best management practices, yield, water use efficienc

    A Review of Indigenous Food Crops in Africa and the Implications for more Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems

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    Indigenous and traditional foods crops (ITFCs) have multiple uses within society, and most notably have an important role to play in the attempt to diversify the food in order to enhance food and nutrition security. However, research suggests that the benefits and value of indigenous foods within the South African and the African context have not been fully understood and synthesized. Their potential value to the African food system could be enhanced if their benefits were explored more comprehensively. This synthesis presents a literature review relating to underutilized indigenous crop species and foods in Africa. It organizes the findings into four main contributions, nutritional, environmental, economic, and social-cultural, in line with key themes of a sustainable food system framework. It also goes on to unpack the benefits and challenges associated with ITFCs under these themes. A major obstacle is that people are not valuing indigenous foods and the potential benefit that can be derived from using them is thus neglected. Furthermore, knowledge is being lost from one generation to the next, with potentially dire implications for long-term sustainable food security. The results show the need to recognize and enable indigenous foods as a key resource in ensuring healthy food systems in the African continent

    Growth, phenological and yield responses of a bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea L. Verdc) landrace to imposed water stress: II. Rain shelter conditions

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    Bambara groundnut is a protein-rich legume, with food-security potential. Effects of irrigation levels and seed coat colour on growth, development, yield and water-use efficiency of local bambara groundnut landrace selections were evaluated under a rain shelter. Emergence was slow, although variation was indicated between landraces. Limited water availability was shown to lower stomatal conductance, although chlorophyll content index was shown to be unaffected. Additionally, growth indices of plant height, leaf number and leaf area index were shown to be lower in response to decreasing water availability. Furthermore, landraces generally flowered and matured earlier while also demonstrating higher water-use efficiency at lower water availability. Seed yield was lower under limited water availability resulting from lower pod mass and pod number. Drought tolerance in bambara groundnut landraces was achieved by reduced canopy size, early flowering and maturity, and maintaining high water use efficiency under stress. ‘Brown’ and ‘Red’ landraces responded to water stress better than the ‘Light-brown’ landrace, suggesting an effect of seed colour on possible drought tolerance.Keywords: bambara groundnut landrace, growth, phenolology, water use efficiency, yiel

    Water use of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) in response to varying planting dates evaluated under rainfed conditions

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    It is vital to understand how rainfall onset, amount and distribution between planting dates affect sorghum yield and water use, in order to aid planting date and cultivar selection. This study investigated morphological, physiological, phenological, yield and water use characteristics of different sorghum genotypes in response to different planting dates under rainfed conditions. Four genotypes (PAN8816 [hybrid], Macia [open-pollinated variety, OPV], Ujiba and IsiZulu [both landraces]) were planted on 3 planting dates (early, optimal, and late) in a split-plot design, with planting dates as the main factor. Low soil water at the optimal planting date was associated with delayed crop establishment and low final emergence. Sorghum genotypes adapted to low and irregular rainfall at the late planting date through low leaf number, canopy cover, chlorophyll content index and stomatal conductance, and hastened phenological development. This resulted in low biomass and grain yields. Landraces exhibited grain yield stability across planting dates, whilst OPV and hybrid genotypes significantly reduced grain yield in response to low water availability when planted late. Biomass and grain yield water use efficiency (WUE) were highest at optimal planting date (30.5 and 9.2 kg∙ha-1·mm-1), relative to late (23.1 and 8.7 kg·ha-1·mm-1), and early planting dates (25.2 and 8.3 kg·ha-1·mm-1). For PAN8816 and Macia, biomass and grain WUE decreased in response to low soil water content, and irregular and disproportionate rainfall experienced during the late planting date. By contrast, biomass and grain WUE for Ujiba and IsiZulu improved with decreasing rainfall. PAN8816 is recommended when planting under low soil water availability to maximize crop stand. Cultivation of Macia is recommended under optimal conditions. Ujiba and IsiZulu landraces are recommended for low rainfall areas with highly variable rainfall. Repetition or modelling of genotype responses across environments different from Ukulinga is required for thorough water use characterisation of these genotypes.Keywords: planting dates, water use efficiency, rainfall variability, cultivar selection, landraces and improved sorghum varietie

    Mainstreaming Underutilized Indigenous and Traditional Crops into Food Systems: A South African Perspective

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    Business as usual or transformative change? While the global agro-industrial food system is credited with increasing food production, availability and accessibility, it is also credited with giving birth to ‘new’ challenges such as malnutrition, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. We reviewed the potential of underutilized indigenous and traditional crops to bring about a transformative change to South Africa’s food system. South Africa has a dichotomous food system, characterized by a distinct, dominant agro-industrial, and, alternative, informal food system. This dichotomous food system has inadvertently undermined the development of smallholder producers. While the dominant agro-industrial food system has led to improvements in food supply, it has also resulted in significant trade-offs with agro-biodiversity, dietary diversity, environmental sustainability, and socio-economic stability, especially amongst the rural poor. This challenges South Africa’s ability to deliver on sustainable and healthy food systems under environmental change. The review proposes a transdisciplinary approach to mainstreaming underutilized indigenous and traditional crops into the food system, which offers real opportunities for developing a sustainable and healthy food system, while, at the same time, achieving societal goals such as employment creation, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability. This process can be initiated by researchers translating existing evidence for informing policy-makers. Similarly, policy-makers need to acknowledge the divergence in the existing policies, and bring about policy convergence in pursuit of a food system which includes smallholder famers, and where underutilized indigenous and traditional crops are mainstreamed into the South African food system

    Usefulness of seed systems for reviving smallholder agriculture: a South African perspective

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    South Africa is considered a food-secure nation; however, food insecurity is still a major challenge for many poor rural households that rely on cash incomes and government grants for survival. Furthermore, these grants are not always adequate to meet households’ basic needs, and fail to provide them with the food required for food and nutrition security. Some of these households rely on agriculture to supplement their food needs, and an important aspect of this agricultural production is the seed system. Smallholder farmers in rural areas rely on informal seed systems, and use traditional knowledge and methods to produce, harvest, store, and sell their produce. This research combined quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the role of informal seed systems in promoting food production in rural smallholder agricultural households in South Africa. The narrative review showed reword that while smallholder farmers acquire seed from informal seed systems, they face numerous challenges that affect their production activities. These challenges include poor seed quality and assessment, poor storage and harvesting facilities, which limit proper seed production, and affect crop yield and marketing. Due to these challenges, the ability of rural smallholder farmers to access mainstream markets is limited and as a result, they are confined to local markets that offer lower prices. Moreover, South African policies do not recognize the informal seed system as one of the contributors to food security. This is a major limitation as farmers may not receive the support and assistance they require. Formal recognition and support for informal seed systems would go a long way in improving smallholder farmers’ access to quality seed. This would have ripple effects on their yields and productivity. When properly implemented and given recognition by the government, informal seed systems have the potential to contribute to rural food security and livelihoods

    The Potential Role of Neglected and Underutilised Crop Species as Future Crops under Water Scarce Conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa

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    Modern agricultural systems that promote cultivation of a very limited number of crop species have relegated indigenous crops to the status of neglected and underutilised crop species (NUCS). The complex interactions of water scarcity associated with climate change and variability in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and population pressure require innovative strategies to address food insecurity and undernourishment. Current research efforts have identified NUCS as having potential to reduce food and nutrition insecurity, particularly for resource poor households in SSA. This is because of their adaptability to low input agricultural systems and nutritional composition. However, what is required to promote NUCS is scientific research including agronomy, breeding, post-harvest handling and value addition, and linking farmers to markets. Among the essential knowledge base is reliable information about water utilisation by NUCS with potential for commercialisation. This commentary identifies and characterises NUCS with agronomic potential in SSA, especially in the semi-arid areas taking into consideration inter alia: (i) what can grow under water-scarce conditions, (ii) water requirements, and (iii) water productivity. Several representative leafy vegetables, tuber crops, cereal crops and grain legumes were identified as fitting the NUCS category. Agro-biodiversity remains essential for sustainable agriculture

    A systems analysis and conceptual system dynamics model of the livestock-derived food system in South Africa : a tool for policy guidance

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    Global food production systems are currently under scrutiny, in particular the health, nutrition, and environmental impacts of livestock-derived food (LDF). Despite South Africa’s recent socio­economic transformation and increased per-capita LDF consumption, the triple burden of malnutri­tion persists. Policy responses to such complex problems often fail because of linear thinking with short-term goals. However, a systems approach helps identify root causes, feedback mechanisms, potential unintended consequences, and opportu­nities for integrated, durable solutions. Participa­tion in the systems-thinking process improves stakeholder understanding and buy-in. Our par­ticipatory workshop facilitated the development of a systems map for South African LDF, identifying key system elements, linkages, and nexus points. The latter included climate change, land access and management, livestock management and produc­tivity, farming systems, food safety, policy articula­tion, agricultural knowledge, and income. Based on these findings, and an overview of related litera­ture, we produced a conceptual system dynamics model of the LDF system. We identified key vari­ables and causal relationships, vicious and virtuous loops, system archetypes, conceptual stock and flows, and links to Sustainable Development Goals. The LDF system is complex and dynamic, with a dominance of commercial enterprises across agriculture and food retail, presenting barriers for small and medium-scale individuals. Other key elements relate to population growth and urbaniza­tion, land access, deregulation of international trade, climate change vulnerability, feed production limitations, and food safety. Our work provides a unique reference for policymakers, identifying the need for deep structural change, highlighting the possible unintended consequences, and thereby mitigating the risk of system destabilization

    Multi-criteria suitability analysis for neglected and underutilised crop species in South Africa

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    Several neglected and underutilised species (NUS) provide solutions to climate change and creating a Zero Hunger world, the Sustainable Development Goal 2. Several NUS are drought and heat stress-tolerant, making them ideal for improving marginalised cropping systems in drought-prone areas. However, owing to their status as NUS, current crop suitability maps do not include them as part of the crop choices. This study aimed to develop land suitability maps for selected NUS [sorghum, (Sorghum bicolor), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), amaranth and taro (Colocasia esculenta)] using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) in ArcGIS. Multidisciplinary factors from climatic, soil and landscape, socio-economic and technical indicators overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis. Validation was done through field visits, and area under the curve (AUC) was used to measure AHP model performance. The results indicated that sorghum was highly suitable (S1) = 2%, moderately suitable (S2) = 61%, marginally suitable (S3) = 33%, and unsuitable (N1) = 4%, cowpea S1 = 3%, S2 = 56%, S3 = 39%, N1 = 2%, amaranth S1 = 8%, S2 = 81%, S3 = 11%, and taro S1 = 0.4%, S2 = 28%, S3 = 64%, N1 = 7%, of calculated arable land of SA (12 655 859 ha). Overall, the validation showed that the mapping exercises exhibited a high degree of accuracies (i.e. sorghum AUC = 0.87, cowpea AUC = 0.88, amaranth AUC = 0.95 and taro AUC = 0.82). Rainfall was the most critical variable and criteria with the highest impact on land suitability of the NUS. Results of this study suggest that South Africa has a huge potential for NUS production. The maps developed can contribute to evidence-based and site-specific recommendations for NUS and their mainstreaming. Also, the maps can be used to design appropriate production guidelines and to support existing policy frameworks which advocate for sustainable intensification of marginalised cropping systems through increased crop diversity and the use of stress-tolerant food crops

    Prospects of improving agricultural and water productivity through unmanned aerial vehicles

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    Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are an alternative to costly and time-consuming traditional methods to improve agricultural water management and crop productivity through the acquisition, processing, and analyses of high-resolution spatial and temporal crop data at field scale. UAVs mounted with multispectral and thermal cameras facilitate the monitoring of crops throughout the crop growing cycle, allowing for timely detection and intervention in case of any anomalies. The use of UAVs in smallholder agriculture is poised to ensure food security at household level and improve agricultural water management in developing countries. This review synthesises the use of UAVs in smallholder agriculture in the smallholder agriculture sector in developing countries. The review highlights the role of UAV derived normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) in assessing crop health, evapotranspiration, water stress and disaster risk reduction. The focus is to provide more accurate statistics on irrigated areas, crop water requirements and to improve water productivity and crop yield
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