Types of Research
This literature review examines the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, wheat production systems in South Asia (SA) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The review highlights crop-environment interactions at three stages of the wheat value chain: pre-production (e.g., land availability), production (e.g., heat, water, and soil), and post-production (e.g. storage, crop residues, and transport). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on production (e.g., poor soil quality, water scarcity, crop pests, etc.) and also environmental impacts of crop production (e.g., soil degradation, water depletion and pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.). We then highlight published best practices for overcoming environmental constraints and minimizing environmental impacts in wheat production systems. We find that wheat is a significant crop that will need to increase production to meet increasing demand. Most land suitable for wheat production is already under cultivation. Improved production methods are needed to address the demand and avert environmental impacts of producing wheat. It should not be assumed that improved varieties alone will be able to realistically address growing demands for wheat. Improved variety seeds should be combined with best practices of improved crop management techniques: optimal planting time, zero tillage, fertilizer management, intercropping, crop residue incorporation, and improved storage techniques.
This report investigates the potential environmental and socio-economic benefits and costs of glyphosate resistant cassava. Glyphosate resistant crops (also referred to as glyphosate tolerant) have been rapidly adopted by a number of crop producers because they simplify and/or reduce the cost of weed management. Glyphosate resistant crops also provide external environmental benefits by promoting reduced tillage agriculture, decreasing erosion and increasing soil health. However, glyphosate resistant crops also have some environmental costs, potentially leading to increased use of herbicides and environmental contamination. Because transgenic glyphosate resistant cassava is not currently in use, literature on its potential environmental and socioeconomic costs and benefits is limited. Therefore, this report draws on the literature for glyphosate resistant crops that are in current use, including maize, soybeans, sugar beets and canola (rapeseed). We find that socioeconomic and environmental impacts of glyphosate resistant crops differ by crop-type, agroecological conditions, production systems and local regulatory structure. Therefore, some benefits and costs associated with other glyphosate resistant crops may not be applicable to glyphosate resistant cassava.
This literature review examines the environmental impacts of water buffalo in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South America). The environmental impacts of water buffalo are less widely studied than those of the other livestock species included in this series; typically, the environmental impacts of water buffalo are incorporated into discussions of cattle without more detailed impacts being broken down by bovine type. In Asia and India, where the majority of buffalo are raised, buffalo are typically kept in small herds of only a few animals, which may minimize the local impacts of their grazing on vegetation, soil erosion and water pollution. Some aspects of buffalo feeding and life cycle patterns, as observed in the Amazon, may cause their greenhouse gas emissions to differ from those of cattle: buffalo can fatten on a wider range of grasses, reach market size in a shorter time, transition better from dry to wet seasons, and are more resistant to bovine diseases. While buffalo grazing and trampling can lead to land degradation, buffalo can contribute to nutrient and resource cycling in farming systems because their manure is considered good fertilizer and they can remove and utilize biomass grown on agricultural plots. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.
This literature review examines the environmental impacts of cattle in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Cattle are frequently cited as having the most severe overall environmental impacts among livestock species due to: methane and nitrous oxide released from digestion and manure; land use and conversion; desertification; inefficient ratio of weight of feed and water consumed to weight of meat and dairy produced; conflicts between livestock herders and wildlife; the large volume of wastewater produced in meat and hide processing; and overgrazing of riparian areas. However, cattle have also been found to provide several environmental benefits such as keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, grain and other feed, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.
This literature review examines the environmental impacts of goats in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We find that the most notable environmental implications of goats stem from their ability to graze on a wide variety of biomass sources in frequently marginal environments; while this intensive grazing stimulates biodiversity loss and may be more severe than grazing by other livestock species, goats are not a major driver of forest clearing due to their low economic value. Environmental benefits of goat production include keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species through moderate grazing. Goats are also more water-efficient than large ruminants such as cattle. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, grazing intensity and frequency, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.
This literature review examines the environmental impacts of chickens in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Compared to ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, and goats), chickens produce lower carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, are a less significant driver of human expansion into natural habitat or of overgrazing, have lower impacts on the water cycle, and cause less destruction of natural habitats. Poultry’s major impacts on land degradation result from the production of their grain-intensive feed. Chicken production also poses a threat to avian biodiversity, as chickens are susceptible to viruses and act as vectors of disease transmission to avian wildlife. Chicken manure is widely viewed as a valuable fertilizer in developing countries, although transportation costs limit manure sales in local markets and the high nitrogen-phosphorous ratio can impact certain soils and water. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, health, livestock feed efficiency, and waste).
This report combines analyses from four previous EPAR briefs on the effects of climate change on maize, rice, wheat, sorghum, and millet production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In addition, this brief presents new analysis of the projected impact of climate changes in SSA. We include comparisons of the importance of each crop, of their vulnerability to climate change, and of the research and policy resources dedicated to each. Especially with respect to climatic susceptibility, these rankings provide a comparative summary based upon the analysis conducted in the four previous EPAR briefs, statistical analyses of historical yield and climate data, and future climate model predictions. According to the indicators analyzed, our research suggests that maize leads the cereal crops in terms of importance within SSA and in terms of research and policy attention. Our analysis of climate conditions and the crop’s physical requirements suggests that many maize-growing areas are likely to move outside the range of ideal temperature and precipitation conditions for maize production. Rice is the third most important crop in terms of consumption dependency, fourth in terms of production, but second only to maize in terms of research funding and FTEs. Sorghum and millet rank second and third in production importance and second and fifth in consumption importance, but rank below maize and rice in terms of FTE researchers. Their role is complicated by the fact that they are often considered inferior goods; SSA consumers often substitute away from sorghum and millet consumption if they are able to do so. Wheat is the least-produced crop of the five, and the second to last in terms of consumption importance. However, it still ranks above millet in terms of FTE researchers.
As part of the Crops & Climate Change series, this brief is presented in three parts: 1) An evaluation of the importance of wheat in SSA, based on production, net exports, and caloric need, 2) A novel analysis of historical and projected climate conditions in wheat-growing regions, followed by a summary of the agronomic and physiological vulnerability of wheat crops, 3) A summary of current resources dedicated to wheat, based on research and development investments and National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Overall, this analysis indicates that the importance of wheat as an imported product remains high throughout SSA, though food crop production and dependence is concentrated in a relatively small area. Wheat-growing regions throughout SSA are likely to face yield decreases as a result of predicted rises in temperatures and possible changes in precipitation. Resources intended to aid adaptation to climate change flow primarily from public sector research and development efforts, though country-level adaptation strategies have not prioritized wheat.
As part of the Crops & Climate Change series, this brief is presented in three parts: 1) An evaluation of the importance of Sorghum and Millet in SSA, based on production, net exports, and caloric need, 2) A novel analysis of historical and projected climate conditions in Sorghum and Millet growing regions, followed by a summary of the agronomic and physiological vulnerability of Sorghum and Millet crops, 3) A summary of current resources dedicated to sorghum and millet, based on research and development investments and National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Our analysis indicates that sorghum and millets may become increasingly important in those areas of SSA predicted to become hotter and subject to more variable precipitation as a result of climate change. Although sorghum and millet are currently grown on marginal agricultural lands and consumed for subsistence by poorer population segments, climate change could render these drought- and heat-tolerant crops the most viable future cereal production option in some areas where other cereals are currently grown. Fewer international development resources are currently devoted to sorghum and millet than are devoted to other cereal grains, and current resource allocation may not reflect the increased reliance on these grains necessitated by projected climactic changes.
Water is a critical input for significantly enhancing smallholder farmer productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where less than 5% of farm land is irrigated, and in India where 42% of farm land is irrigated. For many years, donors have invested in human-powered treadle pump technologies as a point of entry for smallholder farmers unable to afford motorized pumps. In spite of some successes in treadle pump promotion, however, there is a widespread perception that as soon as smallholder farmers can afford to they quickly transition to motorized diesel- powered pumps. While diesel pumps substantially ease farmers’ workload, they pollute excessively (both in terms of local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions), pump excessive amounts of water, and put farmers at the mercy of cyclical spikes in fuel prices. This brief provides an overview of state-of-the-art alternative energy pumps, including technologies available and implementation lessons learned from China, India, Africa, South America and other regions. Through a literature review, written surveys and phone interviews with water pump producers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) we evaluate the availability, affordability, and adoption rates of alternative energy technologies in developing countries. Our findings suggest that no single alternative energy water pumping system is a “silver bullet” for rural smallholder irrigation needs. Biofuels may prove a successful short- to intermediate-term solution for farmers who already have access to diesel pumps, but other problems associated with diesel engines, including high maintenance costs and excessive water use remain even when biofuels are used. Solar systems eliminate pollution almost entirely, reduce water consumption, and eliminate the need to purchase fuels. However solar systems are typically prohibitively expensive for smallholder farmers. Wind powered pumping solutions have not proven successful to date, with high costs and irregular wind patterns (either too little or too much wind) proving substantial barriers to widespread adoption.