Optimizing Soil, Water and Nutrient Use Efficiency in Integrated Cropping-Livestock Production Systems - D1.20.12


Under the changing climate, crop-livestock farming needs special land management to exploit its food production potential. Optimization of land management needs to focus on enhancing water and nutrient use efficiencies as well as mitigation of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The use nuclear and isotopic techniques allow researchers to better understand the potential benefits of crop-livestock system, a type of climate smart method for producing high quality livestock and more crops while protecting the health of their soil for a bright future.


Optimizing Soil, Water and Nutrient Use Efficiency in Integrated Cropping-Livestock Production Systems The overall objective of this CRP is to enhance food security and rural livelihoods by improving resource use efficiency and sustainability of crop-livestock system under a changing climate. The specific objectives are to: (1) optimize water and nutrient use efficiencies in crop-livestock system, (2) identify the potential for improving soil quality and fertility in crop-livestock systems, (3) assess the influence of crop - livestock system on GHG emissions, soil carbon (C) sequestration and water quality, (4) assess socio-economic and environmental benefits of crop-livestock system, (5) strengthen the capacity of the Member States to use isotopic and nuclear techniques as tools for improving the management of crop-livestock system, and (6) develop soil, water and nutrient management options for use in crop-livestock systems so that they can be adopted by farmers.


Eleven countries participate in this CRP: Nine research contract holders from eight countries. Argentina, Brazil (2), China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and Uruguay and three agreement holders from France, Nigeria and the United States of America.


This CRP was started in July 2013. Consultant meeting was held from 26–29 November 2012. The first RCM was held on 22–26 July 2013. The Second RCM was held on 17–21 November 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya and the third RCM on 14–18 March 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The final RCM was held in Vienna on 18-22 June 2018.

Key results:

  • The carbon isotopic signature data in Argentina field trials showed that C3 plants (soybean and pasture) led to more carbon storage in soil than that of C4 plants in integrated crop-livestock farm ICLS and continuous cropping system (CCS). These results suggest that rotation with legumes could contribute to more carbon accumulation than pasture.
  • The three years field data in Brazil showed that integrated crop-livestock system have the most potential to reduce N2O emission from soil., even more when trees are included (ICLFS, integrated crop-livestock-forest system), possibly due to a shade effect on decreasing average soil temperature and thus N2O production. Additionally, managing N fertilization also reduced N2O emissions.
  • Agricultural soils in Uganda are severely degraded mainly due to poor soil fertility and subsistence farming. Integrated livestock cropping system led to improvement in soil fertility, increased crop productivity and livelihoods of the farmers in the studied region compared to traditional farming system. For example, the production cost for maize has been reduced by 72% from Uganda shs 900000 to Uganda shs 250000 Per ha. The gap in yield of maize to a fertilized garden is only 14% per ha from 3.44 t/ha for fertilized garden at recommended rate and 2.99 t/ha for maize-cow rotation.
  • The field studies in India showed that integrated crop-livestock system led to a significant increase in organic carbon content in the soil, making it healthier and better for growing crops. Organic carbon content increased in three out of the four project locations; in the Kancheepuram area, for example, the organic carbon content increased from 0.18% to 0.73%. Livestock reproductive performance has also gone up, including a 15% increase in the cattle’s milk production as well as increase in the size of goats.
  • In Kenya, potential farm practices for improving soil nutrient and water use efficiencies in crop-livestock systems for adoption by farmers have been identified. Socio-economic and environmental benefits of crop-livestock systems have also been assessed. Stakeholders’ capacity to use nuclear techniques in soil water management has been strengthened.

Project Officer:

Mohammad Zaman