Limits of conservation agriculture to overcome low crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa

Corbeels Marc, Naudin Krishna, Whitbread Anthony M., Kühne Ronald, Letourmy Philippe. 2020. Limits of conservation agriculture to overcome low crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature Food, 1 (7) : pp. 447-454.

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Abstract : Conservation agriculture (CA) has become a dominant paradigm in scientific and policy thinking about the sustainable intensification of food production in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet claims that CA leads to increasing crop yields in African smallholder farming systems remain controversial. Through a meta-analysis of 933 observations from 16 different countries in sub-Saharan African studies, we show that average yields under CA are only slightly higher than those of conventional tillage systems (3.7% for six major crop species and 4.0% for maize). Larger yield responses for maize result from mulching and crop rotations/intercropping. When CA principles are implemented concomitantly, maize yield increases by 8.4%. The largest yield benefits from CA occur in combination with low rainfall and herbicides. We conclude that although CA may bring soil conservation benefits, it is not a technology for African smallholder farmers to overcome low crop productivity and food insecurity in the short term.

Mots-clés Agrovoc : agriculture de conservation, Rendement des cultures, Productivité des terres

Mots-clés géographiques Agrovoc : Afrique au sud du Sahara

Mots-clés libres : Agriculture, Developing world

Classification Agris : F01 - Crops
F08 - Cropping patterns and systems

Champ stratégique Cirad : CTS 2 (2019-) - Transitions agroécologiques

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Corbeels Marc, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR AIDA (KEN) - auteur correspondant
  • Naudin Krishna, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR AIDA (FRA) ORCID: 0000-0002-9108-2456
  • Whitbread Anthony M., ICRISAT (TZA)
  • Kühne Ronald, Georg-August University (DEU)
  • Letourmy Philippe, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR AIDA (FRA) ORCID: 0000-0003-1040-0860

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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