Mitigating Effects of Climate Change Through Conservation Agriculture and Drought-Tolerant Open-Pollinated Maize Varieties in Mozambique
Thierfelder, C., P. Setimela, N. S. Eash, and F. R. Walker.  2012.  ASA/CSSA/SSSA Proceedings.

Abstract:
Conservation agriculture (CA) is based on minimum soil disturbance, crop residue retention and crop rotation. In southern Africa it has been suggested that CA cropping systems could improve soil quality and mitigate the negative effects of seasonal dry spells. When combining CA with drought-tolerant maize varieties, farmers can reap the benefits of both - genetic improvement and sustainable land management. Since 2007, on-farm trials in Mozambique have tested both the performance of CA systems and drought tolerant maize varieties. Longer term trends show that direct seeded manual CA treatments out-yielded conventional practices on average by up to 33 percent. Improved management on farmers' fields led to higher water infiltration and gradual increases in other soil quality indicators, which increased the resilience of this cropping system against seasonal dry spells. Farmers reported a preference for ZM309 a drought-tolerant, early maturing, open-pollinated maize variety (OPV) rather than a higher yielding but more risky late maturing maize OPV such as ZM625. Other advantages include better taste and easier manual pounding for household maize porridge consumption. Farmers in drought-prone environments where mid-season dry spells are common, rate “yield stability” higher than higher potential yields common with longer season varieties. However some farmers are reluctant to invest in soil improving technologies like CA if they still practice shifting cultivation - where farmers change to a new field when soil fertility declines, which is still common in some parts of Mozambique. Population growth, labor shortage to clear new land areas and now limiting land resources in many parts of the country will force farmers to change towards more sustainable continuous cropping systems to improve food security and livelihoods.