An innovative cropping strategy based on co-designed strip cropping systems to increase biodiversity and reduce external inputs while maintaining yields.
Agricultural intensification with the high use of external inputs, especially agrochemicals, has increased food production. However, this input-based intensification has caused substantial loss of biodiversity and contributed to change in climate, soil, air and water quality. There is a need to develop multi-functional cropping systems that will not only meet the food demand, but also improves environment and farmer’s economy. This project aims to co-design agro-ecological cropping systems based on strip cropping of winter oilseed rape (WOSR) and winter wheat (WW), with and without intercropped winter pea, to exploit the benefits of crop diversity for increasing biodiversity and reducing external inputs but with maintained/improved yields.
The specific objectives are to:
1) co-design locally relevant diversified cropping systems based on strip and intercropping of three important arable crops in an iterative process to reduce inputs but maintain/increase yield via ecological intensification
2) co-evaluate the performance of each diversification approach in terms of pest and natural enemy abundance (of the three crops), weeds, disease (pea root rot), crop N acquisition and yield in farmer’s fields and research station
3) understand facilitation processes between crop-crop to respond to environmental stresses and its implications on resource efficiency and crop performances in a field with spatial soil heterogeneity
4) holistically assess sustainability of the co-designed cropping systems, including economic, environmental and social dimensions by using multi-criteria tool
5) empower farmers and advisors to take leadership roles in promoting and accelerating the transition to agroecological practices
These innovative cropping systems will be tested in farmers’ fields and research station in three growing seasons, and co-assessed for sustainability using a multi-criteria sustainability assessment tool. Using participatory approach will hybridize knowledge and experiences of various stakeholders for developing locally relevant systems and speed-up the transition to sustainable farming practices.