Agroecological integration of shade- and drought-tolerant food/feed crops for year-round productivity in banana-based systems under rain-fed conditions in Central Africa
Yield gaps in banana-based production systems have increased in the past two decades due to declining soil fertility, drought and biotic stresses. Sustainable, environmentally sound and economically viable strategies for intensification in these systems are urgently needed. Agroecological practices, such as the integration of shade- and drought-tolerant crops, nitrogen-fixing and cover crops could potentially improve soil fertility and moisture retention, reduce the weed burden, narrow yield gaps and increase overall plot/farm productivity in these systems. In Malaysia, leguminous crops like Pueraria phaseoloides, Calopogonium caeruleum and Centrosema pubescens are often cultivated as cover crops (to suppress weeds, and reduce moisture loss and soil erosion) in young rubber and oil palm plantations with low shade levels. Even in mature oil palm plantations with less than 30% light intensity, various shade-tolerant crops are grown, e.g., elephant foot yam, turmeric and arrow root. In humid tropical Africa, Colocasia (taro) and Xanthosoma (cocoyam) are reported to tolerate shade conditions and hence often planted under perennial banana/plantain plantations. Drought tolerance is a less common feature of most annual crops grown in the humid tropics. A few root and tuber crops (e.g., cassava, taro, yam and sweetpotato) remain in the field during the dry season in Central Africa and are then harvested according to household needs. This paper also reports on crops (Mucuna, lablab and chickpea) with potential for integration into banana-based systems during the dry season, if planted during the last month of the rainy season. These crops are reported to use the residual soil moisture content for continued growth during the dry season months. The paper concludes with detailed descriptions (from a literature review) on drought- and shade-tolerance characteristics of various crops which have long been integrated in Central African banana-based cropping systems, crops with a more recent cultivation history and crops with potential for system integration.
Blomme, G., Ocimati, W., Groot, J.C.J., Ntamwira, J., Bahati, L., Kantungeko, D., Remans, R. and Tittonell, P. (2018). Agroecological integration of shade- and drought-tolerant food/feed crops for year-round productivity in banana-based systems under rain-fed conditions in Central Africa. Acta Hortic. 1196, 41-54
intensification, resilience, small-scale farming, year-round productivity, yield gaps