The adaptive capacity of maize-based conservation agriculture systems to climate stress in tropical and subtropical environments: A meta-regression of yields

Peter R. Steward, Andrew J. Dougill, Christian Thierfelder, Cameron M. Pittelkow, Lindsay C. Stringer, Maxwell Kudzala, Gorm E. Shackelford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Conservation agriculture is widely promoted across sub-Saharan Africa as a sustainable farming practice that enhances adaptive capacity to climate change. The interactions between climate stress, management, and soil are critical to understanding the adaptive capacity of conservation agriculture. Yet conservation agriculture syntheses to date have largely neglected climate, especially the effects of extreme heat. For the sub-tropics and tropics, we use meta-regression, in combination with global soil and climate datasets, to test four hypotheses: (1) that relative yield performance of conservation agriculture improves with increasing drought and temperature stress; (2) that the effects of moisture and temperature stress exposure interact; (3) that the effects of moisture and temperature stress are modified by soil texture; and (4) that crop diversification, fertilizer application rate, or the time since no-till implementation will enhance conservation agriculture performance under climate stress. Our results support the hypothesis that the relative maize yield performance of conservation agriculture improves with increasing drought severity or exposure to high temperatures. Further, there is an interaction of moisture and heat stress on conservation agriculture performance and their combined effect is both non-additive and modified by soil clay content, supporting our second and third hypotheses. Finally, we found only limited support for our fourth hypothesis as (1) increasing nitrogen application rates did not improve the relative performance of conservation agriculture under high heat stress; (2) crop diversification did not notably improve conservation agriculture performance, but did increase its stability with heat stress; and (3) a statistically robust effect of the time since no-till implementation was not evident. Our meta-regression supports the narrative that conservation agriculture enhances the adaptive capacity of maize production in sub-Saharan Africa under drought and/or heat stress. However, in very wet seasons and on clay-rich soils, conservation agriculture yields less compared to conventional practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume251
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Climate change
  • Climate-smart agriculture
  • Drought
  • No-till
  • Sustainable agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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