Application of novel soil management technologies for poverty alleviation of traditional rural communities and enhanced environmental health of the Am

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences

Abstract

The management farmers apply to their land has a significant impact on the health of the surrounding environment and the socio-economic wellbeing of the farmer and their family. A previous Newton Fund project (NUCLEUS) focused on enhancing Nitrogen (an essential plant & soil element) Use Efficiency identified a suite of novel practices, well suited to smallholder famers in northern Brazil, which increased the sustainability and productivity of the tropical agri-systems with low natural fertility. Here we intend to disseminate this new approach more widely which makes use of a variety of ecosystems services to increase crop productivity and soil nutrient use efficiency. These include i) the adoption of a new soil management system (no-till) where farmers avoid the disturbance of soil created by ploughing to retain soil organic matter allowing a more natural, effective soil structure to develop; ii) incorporation of advantageous soil amendments (e.g. leguminous biomass (which adds Nitrogen) and gypsum (which improves soil structure and hence deep rooting); and iii) introducing leguminous trees which enhance soil nutrient cycling and provide added value as a harvestable good. This new approach minimises soil degradation, facilitating repeated cropping of the same area thus removing the need for unnecessary shifting cultivation systems, which have contributed so significantly to deforestation, environmental degradation and poverty via rural to urban migration. To date we have validated this system in partnership with a small network of traditional communities in Maranhao, Brazil by trials on their farms. Now we intend to expand this via knowledge exchange, community events and outreach activities through establishment of new Diffusion Centres (i.e. exemplar farms). By surpassing the barriers which hinder technology uptake by the farmers in the rural community of central-north of Maranhão, we estimate c.150,000 rural families livelihoods can be improved.

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