Study on agroecological functions of conservation agriculture principles on rainfed rice production in the lake Alaotra region (Madagascar)

Abstract : Conservation agriculture (CA) is based on the principles of minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and diversification of crop species grown in rotations and/or associations. CA was introduced in the late 90s in the Lake Alaotra region, Madagascar, in order to improve rainfed crop productivity which is commonly constrained by low soil fertility, soil water stress and weed infestation. The main objective of this study was to quantify and understand the impact of CA on rainfed rice productivity as compared to the practice of conventional tillage (CT). First, a review of literature was conducted on the agro-ecological functions of mulching with crop residues in relation to their quantity. The literature review showed that the optimal amount of residues required principally depends on the agro-ecological function searched for. Residue amounts of 2 to 3 t ha-1 had clear positive effects in terms of improving water infiltration and limiting water runoff and soil erosion. On the other hand, results on weed control, nutrient availability and soil fauna in relation to the amount of mulch were highly variable, suggesting the interaction of these agro-ecological functions with other factors, including residue type and soil-climate conditions. Second, two field experiments were monitored at the research center of FOFIFA in the Lake Alaotra region. A first experiment aiming at quantifying the physical effect of a mulch of crop residues on weed infestation, with amounts of surface residues ranging from 0 to 45 t ha-1 showed that the emergence and biomass of weeds on mulched plots depend mainly on the quantity and distribution of rainfall during the cropping season. Overall, weed emergence and biomass decreased with increasing amounts of mulch. However, a large quantity of residues, i.e. in the order of 10 t ha-1, was required to significantly (p<0.05) reduce weed pressure as compared to a bare soil under the agro-ecological conditions of our experiments. The second experiment was conducted during six years (2009/10 to 2014/15), and a 2-year rotation of maize + Dolichos lablab // rice and a 3-year rotation of maize + Stylosanthes guianensis // S. guianensis // rice were combined with three soil/residue management practices and two level of fertilization. Two levels of weed pressure were added as split-plot in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Higher rice grain yields on CA plots as compared to CT plots in the fifth and sixth year of the CA practice were mainly related to a decline of weed pressure under CA. Soil water and mineral nitrogen dynamics did not differ markedly between CA and CT and were strongly influenced by the rainfall pattern. Finally, the use of the concept of stability analysis and the yield gap approach to analyze the variation of rice yield under the 6 crop seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15 showed that the effects of treatments including crop rotation, soil and residue management, and fertilization levels interact with other factors likely related to the spatial variability of the experimental design. Results of our study suggest that both agro-ecological function of mulch searched for and rainfall conditions should be taken into account when promoting CA systems to improve crop productivity in the Lake Alaotra region. Practicing CA with typical amounts of residues that are produced on farmer’s field (i.e. 1 – 2 t ha-1) is sufficient to control water runoff and soil erosion. However, extra amounts of crop residues are required to effectively control weed infestation. These extra amounts could be produced with the introduction of high biomass-producing crop rotations and could decrease the labor pressure from weeding.
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Lalaina Ranaivoson. Study on agroecological functions of conservation agriculture principles on rainfed rice production in the lake Alaotra region (Madagascar). Agricultural sciences. Montpellier SupAgro, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017NSAM0043⟩. ⟨tel-01871441⟩

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