sowing_trad-maliArea: Mali and Sudan
Participants: Institute D’Economie Rurale, Bamako, Mali. The Drylands Research Center, Agricultural Research Cooperation, ElObeid, Sudan
Products: Crop production and protection
Intensification drivers: Improved land productivity, reduce work burden for the farmers, poor traction power of farm animals, timelier farm operations, more precise application of seed and fertilizer, higher capacity in weeding, less drudgery for the farmers, resilient to climate change, high yield loss due to pests and diseases.
Report: Please download the complete Light Case Study report here.

There is broad agreement that agricultural intensification is needed to achieve economic growth in Africa, but the question is which intensification pathway (that is high input, organic, agro-ecology or sustainable) is most appropriate to the African situation. We identified crop management (agronomic practices) and pest control as paramount to all pathways.

A research and development collaboration between Institute Economie Rurale in Mali, Agriculture Research Cooperation in Sudan, Department of International Environment and Development Studied (Noragric) at Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and Dryland Coordination Group in Norway was initiated in 2005 on agricultural intensification in drylands. This case study presents the role of mechanization technologies (improved ploughing, mechanized sowing/planter), seed priming, improved soil fertility (microdosing) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in the intensification of agricultural production in Mali and Sudan. Important elements are:

  • Ploughing has increased yield of groundnut, millet and sorghum; yield increased by 19, 21 and 29%, respectively per unit area. However, the yield benefit of ploughing on a heavy soil is higher than ploughing a sandy soil.
  • Mechanized sowing leads to the increase in yield in the order of 15 to 20% compared to manual sowing. The contributing factors for the increase in yield are precise sowing depth, optimum plant density, uniform planting distance, allowance for sowing of a large area in short time, and reduction in labour demand in sowing and weeding. Institutions from Norway and other collaborating countries in Africa developed a motorized planter. The planter can also be used for weeding purposes.
  • Seed priming consists of soaking the seed in water prior to sowing. Field experiments showed that yield benefit of seed priming is 30% higher than the non-primed seed. It also reduces the germination time by 1 to 2 days and ensures a more uniform plant stand. When seed treatment is combined with insecticide and fungicide, the yield increases by additionally 15%.
  • It appears that plants having received microdosing grow better and outcompete weeds. The mechanization, seed priming, seed treatment and microdosing should be combined in order to achieve a good yield. In the case of sorghum, mechanized sowing, combined with seed priming and microdosing, grain yield increased by 51%. Furthermore, there was a corresponding increase in sorghum biomass production, which again means more recycling of organic matter. In 2016, an impact evaluation study on sustainability of seed priming, microdosing and mechanization technologies in Mali showed that farmers generated an economic surplus and purchased more livestock, ploughs, donkey and charrettes.
  • The IPM practice decreased production costs and reduced the negative impact of pesticide on human health and the environment both in Mali and Sudan. IPM programs in Sudan, resulted in more than 50 % reduction in insecticide use. Cotton farmers in Mali use biopesticides like neem tree extract and have thus eliminated 92% of their annual chemical pesticide usage. IPM programs in tomato allowed the recovery of tomato production in areas where whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses had eliminated crop production.

moterized-planter-img_2246-002Drivers of intensification were improved land productivity, reduced work burden for the farmers, poor traction power of farm animals, timelier farm operations, less drudgery for the farmers, resilience to climate change, reduced exposure to pesticides, minimize environmental pollution, increased farmers’ income, high demand for safe and quality agricultural produce/food, and increase in population. Agricultural mechanization, seed priming, microdosing of fertilizer and IPM practices are crucial components in the intensification of agricultural in Africa. Mechanization should be introduced in combination with yield enhancing technologies such as seed priming, microdosing, treatment of seeds with fungicide/insecticides and IPM. However, the increased yield benefit by using those technologies varies by region, crop type, farm size, and depends on a broad set of agro-ecological and economic conditions.

Despite some success stories with mechanization and other technologies, their introduction has not been without problems and adoption has been slow. For example, the motorized machine/planter has a higher capacity than a machine drawn by traction animals, but the motorized planter costs about 800 Euro, and thus is expensive for farmers. Capacity building, awareness creation through farmers training and access to credits are crucial for the adoption and sustainable use of agricultural technologies in Mali and Sudan. Given the very high loss due to pest damage, intensification of crop production without an adequate protection from pest damage is not economically viable.