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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #337916

Research Project: Improvement of Soil Management Practices and Manure Treatment/Handling Systems of the Southern Coastal Plain

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Conservation agriculture improves yield and reduces weeding activity in sandy soils of Cambodia

Author
item Edralin, Don - North Carolina Agricultural And Technical State University
item Sigua, Gilbert
item Reyes, Manuel - Kansas State University
item Mulvaney, Michael - University Of Florida
item Andrews, Susan

Submitted to: Agronomy for Sustainable Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/22/2017
Publication Date: 10/12/2017
Citation: Edralin, D.L., Sigua, G.C., Reyes, M.R., Mulvaney, M.J., Andrews, S.S. 2017. Conservation agriculture improves yield and reduces weeding activity in sandy soils of Cambodia. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 37:52. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-017-0461-7.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-017-0461-7

Interpretive Summary: Increasing food production within existing agricultural lands is a continuous challenge for an ever-increasing global population. Success in agricultural production during the Green Revolution can be attributed to several major process components, of which tillage has played a major part. Conventional tillage practices, however, could cause rapid loss of soil organic matter, leading to a high potential for soil degradation and decline of environmental quality and crop yield in the long run. A study was conducted in farmer’s field to evaluate the effect of conservation agriculture and conventional tillage on yield of selected agricultural crops (i.e. maize, cucumber, cauliflower, yard long bean, eggplant and hot pepper) and weeding activity in three villages of Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our results supported the overall concept and/or premise of conservation agriculture. Results have shown that in smallholder commercial household farms, adoption of conservation agriculture had profitable production management system, which could saves resources, improves yield, and reduces labor. Conservation agriculture is a concept of production that aims to save resources, strives to achieve acceptable profits with high and sustainable production levels, while at the same time conserving the environment. Important results of our study are summarized as follows: i) the yield of agricultural crops was similar in conservation agriculture and conventional tillage during the establishment phase as well as during the subsequent two to three cropping seasons. However, crop yields were significantly improved in conservation agriculture compared with conventional tillage, starting on the third cropping season; and ii) the manual weeding in all cropping seasons were significantly reduced by about 30% in conservation agriculture, which can be attributed to existing cover crops and surface mulch. Overall, in smallholder commercial household farms, adoption of conservation agriculture had profitable production management system, which could saves resources, improves yield, and reduces labor. Additional studies are encouraged to further test the system for a longer period of time, with repeated cropping sequences. Although the applicability of this research is limited to intensive commercial household production, where management is optimum, conservation agriculture had shown crop yield improvement compared with conventional tillage in the sandy soils of Cambodia.

Technical Abstract: Intensive tillage in many less-developed countries, including Cambodia have caused significant decline in agriculture’s natural resources and sustainability. With limited available data, long-term conventional tillage system (CT) and conservation agriculture system (CA) can affect changes in soil properties and crop yield, so there is a critical need for a better and comprehensive process-level understanding of differential effects of tillage and conservation agriculture systems. A study was conducted in farmer’s field to evaluate the effect of CA and CT on yield of selected agricultural crops (i.e. maize, cucumber, cauliflower, yard long bean, eggplant and hot pepper) and weeding activity in three villages of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The yield of crops was similar in CA and CT during the establishment phase as well as during the subsequent two to three cropping seasons. However, crop yields were significantly (=0.001) improved in CA compared with CT, starting on the third cropping season. The low-cost irrigation (drip irrigation system) did not show any significant effect on crop yield, but labor reductions in the field with respect to weeding activities were observed by as much as 65 percent (%). The manual weeding in all cropping seasons were significantly reduced by about 30% in CA, which can be attributed to existing cover crops and surface mulch. These results indicate that in smallholder commercial household farms, adoption of CA had a profitable production management system, which could saves resources, improves yield, and reduces labor. Additional studies are encouraged to further test the system for a longer period of time, with repeated cropping sequences. Although the applicability of this research is limited to intensive commercial household production, where management is optimum, CA had demonstrated crop yield improvement compared with CT in the sandy soils of Cambodia. Yield improvement and reduction of labor costs due to adoption of CA in our study can be attributed to three-component production systems namely: i) minimum soil disturbance; ii) continuous mulch; and iii) diverse species in space and time.