As part of the BMZ financed project ‘climate-smart crop-livestock systems for smallholders in the tropics: Integration of new forage hybrids to intensify agriculture and to mitigate climate change through regulation of nitrification in soil’, the Livestock and Fish program team has been working alongside farmers in rural communities of Nicaragua to improve productivity and mitigate the effects of climate change through the efficient use of nitrogen in soil and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in mixed crop-livestock systems.
Through this project we are applying the innovative approach of Biological Nitrification Inhibition (BNI – a process improving the efficiency of utilization of fertilizer nitrogen while reducing nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural production systems) by Brachiaria humidicola forage grass hybrids to tackle the challenge of developing knowledge and technologies to reverse land and pasture degradation, increasing productivity and improving the livelihoods of small farmers while reducing agriculture’s environmental impact.The project’s main expected outcomes include increased forage production especially in areas with poorly drained soils in the tropics, more efficient land and input (nitrogen) use, increased crop-livestock integration, and mitigation of climate change through reduced GHG emissions.
Various B. humidicola hybrids have been identified with varying levels of potential for BNI, higher forage yields and improved feeding quality.
We are currently conducting on-farm experiments in two rural farm communities of Nicaragua – La Calamidad (Camoapa, Boaco) and Los Laureles (Nueva Guinea, RAAS) – to integrate the selected hybrids into mixed crop-livestock systems. The potential economic benefits of the proposed technologies are being assessed and local capacities are being strengthened to evaluate BNI.
36 B. humidicola hybrids, obtained through CIAT’s Brachiaria Improvement Program, have been established. These will be compared with three grasses that are widely used in the selected areas: B. brizantha cv. Marandu, Ischaemum indicum (Retana grass), and B. mutica (Para grass), for a total of 39 pastures to be evaluated.
Participative evaluations involving farmers as decision makers and co-researchers throughout the integration of new B. humidicola hybrids in mixed crop-livestock systems will help us obtain ranges of the preferred hybrids by farmers in the region.