Case studies

Our research will focus on some cases of studies defined in the project

Basics concepts

In order to understand our project it is necessary to be clear about these basic concepts

Soil

Soil is the natural medium for the growth of plants. Soil has also been defined as a natural body consisting of layers (soil horizons) that are composed of weathered mineral materials, organic material, air and water. Soil is the end product of the combined influence of climate, topography, organisms (flora, fauna and human) on parent materials (original rocks and minerals) over time. As a result, soil differs from its parent material in texture, structure, consistency, color, chemical, biological and physical characteristics.

Diversified cropping system

A system of farming that encourages production of a variety of plants and animals and their products in the same piece of land, as opposed to monoculture or large-scale specialization.

Intercropping

The practice of growing two or more crops together at the same time in the same space in a beneficial manner with the aim of increasing land productivity, crop quality and ecosystem services. Row intercropping is working this arrangement with crops being planted in alternative rows. Strip intercropping is a more industrialized version with rows of individual crops wide enough to be harvested with machinery. Mixed intercropping means plants bunched together more naturally with no separation in rows or strips. Relay intercropping indicates growing two or more crops simultaneously during part of each one's cycle. A second crop is planted after the first crop has reached maturity.

Rotations

the practice of growing different crops in yearly succession on the same land chiefly to preserve the productive capacity of the soil.

Multiple cropping

The practice of growing different crops in seasonally succession (within the same year) on the same land chiefly to preserve the productive capacity of the soil.

Inputs

The material inputs (e.g. seed, fertilizers, fuel, chemical sprays, pesticides, water) and other inputs (e.g. labour hours) applied to the use of land.

Low-input management practices

Agricultural management practices with reduced use of external fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, energy and water. The aim is to reduce costs, negative environmental impacts and maintain crop productivity and quality.

Pedoclimatic region

Regions that are relatively homogeneous concerning climate and soil.

Land productivity

Ratio of agricultural outputs to agricultural inputs per unit of surface.

Land equivalent ratio for intercropping systems

The ratio of the area under sole cropping to the area under intercropping needed to give equal amounts of yield at the same management level. It is the sum of the fractions of the intercropped yields divided by the sole-crop yields.

Ecosystem services

Direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being. They support directly or indirectly our survival and quality of life.

Ecosystem services provided by diversified cropping systems

Productivity, biodiversity, soil fertility, soil quality, reduced erosion, water quality, climate change mitigation.

Value chain

Set of linked activities that work to add value to a product, from the field to the consumer; it consists of actors and actions that improve a product while linking commodity producers to processors and markets.

Supply chain

Transport, storage and procedural steps for getting a product from its production site to the consumer.

Gross margin

The revenues from a farming enterprise (crop yields x prices) minus the variable costs.

Can diversified cropping systems under low-input practices increase farmers competitiveness and long-term sustainability?

With diversified cropping systems, dependence on a single crop is avoided, so that variability in prices, market, climate, and pests/diseases will not have such drastic effects on local economy. Through diversification, farmers will produce a variety of commodities apart from food and feed, depending on the type and complexity of the diversified cropping systems, (e.g. firewood, flowers, honey, industrial products), lowering expenditure and increasing the access to new markets and economic gains. In addition, the return of investments (ROI) will occur in much less time, e.g.in cases where trees are combined with short term agricultural crops. With a greater diversity of crops, a farmer will be less affected by market fluctuations and will be able to shift from one crop to another depending on price and demand, with reduced economic risk. In addition, diversified cropping systems will permit greater stability in production; whatever the conditions in one location and for one growing season, at least one member of the diversified cropping system will succeed, with reduced economic risks and so increased revenues.