08 Apr 2022
08 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Effects of alternative crop-livestock management scenarios on selected ecosystem services in smallholder farming – a landscape perspective

Mirjam Pfeiffer1, Munir Paul Hoffmann2, Simon Scheiter1, William Nelson3, Johannes Isselstein4,7, Kingsley Kwabena Ayisi5, Jude Odhiambo6, and Reimund Paul Rötter3,7 Mirjam Pfeiffer et al.
  • 1Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 2Agvolution GmbH, Phillip-Reis-Str. 2, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
  • 3University of Göttingen, Tropical Plant Production and Agrosystems Modelling (TROPAGS), Grisebachstrasse 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
  • 4University of Göttingen, Grassland Science, Göttingen, Germany
  • 5Risk and Vulnerability Science Center, University of Limpopo, South Africa
  • 6Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, University of Venda, South Africa
  • 7University of Göttingen, Center of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use (CBL), Buesgenweg 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany

Abstract. Smallholder farming systems in southern Africa are characterized by low-input management and integrated livestock and crop production. Low yields and dry-season feed shortages are common. To meet growing food demands, sustainable intensification (SI) of these systems is an important policy goal. While mixed crop-livestock farming may offer greater productivity, it implies trade-offs between feed supply, soil nutrient replenishment, soil carbon accumulation, and other ecosystem functions and services. Such settings require a detailed systems understanding to assess the performance of prevalent management practices and identify potential SI strategies. Models can evaluate different management scenarios on extensive spatio-temporal scales and help identify suitable management strategies. Here, we linked the process-based models APSIM for cropland and aDGVM2 for rangeland to investigate the effects of (i) current management practices, (ii) a SI scenario for crop production, and (iii) a scenario with separated rangeland and cropland management in two representative villages of the Limpopo province, South Africa, for the period 2000–2010. Village surveys informed the models of farming practices, livelihood conditions, and environmental circumstances. We found that modest SI measures (manure application, small fertilizer quantities, weeding, crop rotation) led to moderate yield increases but could cause increased water limitation effects in dry years. SI effects therefore strongly varied between years. Dry-season crop residue grazing substantially reduced feed deficits, but could not compensate severe feed deficits during the transition period from dry to wet season. Targeted irrigation or measures to improve water retention and soil water holding capacity may enhance SI efforts. Off-field residue feeding during the dry-to-wet season transition could further reduce feed deficits and reduce grazing pressure on rangeland during the early growing season. We argue that integrative modeling frameworks are needed to evaluate landscape-level interactions between ecosystem components, evaluate the climate resilience of landscape-level ecosystem services, and identify effective mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Dedicated to the memory of our esteemed colleague Marian Koch.

Mirjam Pfeiffer et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-61', Carsten Marohn, 12 May 2022
  • RC2: 'bg-2022-61', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Jun 2022

Mirjam Pfeiffer et al.

Mirjam Pfeiffer et al.


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Short summary
Smallholder farmers face challenges due to poor land management and climate change. We linked the APSIM crop model and the aDGVM2 vegetation model to investigate integrated management options that enhance ecosystem functions and services. Sustainable intensification moderately increased yields. Crop residue grazing reduced feed gaps, but not for dry-to-wet season transitions. Measures to improve soil water and nutrient status are recommended. Landscape-level ecosystem management is essential.