Low-Input Cropping for the Humid Tropics

Low-input cropping systems are being developed to serve as a transition technology between shifting and continuous cultivation for acid soils of the humid tropics. Principle features are slash-and-burn clearing, rotation of acid-tolerant upland rice and cowpea cultivars, maximum residue return, no tillage, and no lime or fertilizer applications.

When yields decline as a result of increasing weed pressure and nutrient deficiencies, a tropical kudzu (Pueraria phaseoloides) fallow is grown for one year. Subsequent options include fertilizer-based continuous cultivation, pastures, or agroforestry. The system preserves some agroecosystem diversity and contributes toward a sustainable level of production and income for farmers in humid tropical regions.

Pedro Sanchez and Jose Benites, Science, Vol. 238, #4833; pp. 1521-1527.