This project is funded by the Maize Trust and done in collaboration with the Mahikeng Study Group.
In many parts of South Africa (SA), cropping systems are characterised by mono-cropping of maize, vigorous ploughing of soil as well as bare soils (Saharawat & Gupta, 2017). Continuous maize farming could be attributed to maize being the staple food in SA. Farmers have traditionally used ploughing of the soil as a method to remove weeds, facilitate water infiltration and prepare a seedbed. Due to the dual farming that includes livestock, farmers usually use crop residues injudiciously as feed for these animals, resulting in bare soil. All these factors lead to serious soil degradation hazards including nutrient depletion, nutrient imbalances and soil erosion (Bhandari et al., 2002). These, in turn, result in depressed yields, exacerbated by low and erratic rainfall (Sapkota et al., 2004). The area of Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, North West Province, is not immune to these practices. Sustainable cropping systems such as Conservation Agriculture (CA) can improve crop production and productivity in the area. CA employs simultaneous application of minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover as well as diversified crop rotation (Hobbs et al., 2007). Minimum disturbance of the soil can also improve soil carbon sequestration, which is an important element in improving soil health. Retention of plant residue in cropland after harvesting can have immeasurable benefits to the soil and the subsequent crop. This is because plant residue contain nutrients like N, P and K as well as C in their dry matter (Torma et al., 2017). Crop rotation is another important component of CA due to its impact on soil fertility and soil-borne pathogens (Riedell et al., 2009; Bullock, 1992).
This project aims to research, develop and adapt appropriate and profitable CA systems for a range of diverse and unique contexts in the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality of the North West Province.
The following short-term objectives will assist the project in achieving its aim:
- To establish and facilitate appropriate on-farm trials with the Mahikeng CA study group.
- To monitor and analyse a series of appropriate indicators from on-farm trials on selected farmers’ fields.
- To create wider awareness and innovation capacity among the target group and the broader farming communities on the practices and benefits of locally adapted CA systems.
- To support farmer facilitation, administration and reporting processes.