managed by R. Orford (Communication)
The Institute of Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Hohenheim was established in 1983. It deals in research and teaching with the basic question of how the growing world population can be nourished in the future. This complex problem is a challenge to this institute in particular as domesticated plants form the basis for human nutrition. The main focus of the widespread research activities is the development of land use systems that on one side provide high yields, but also fit the prevailing ecological conditions. Consequently the emphases are laid on agroecological aspects such as the human influence on the ecosystem, the development of sustainable agricultural production systems, the protection of natural resources, the improvement of degraded agricultural areas, and the improvement of plant protection in small-scale production systems in the tropics and subtropics. Besides with the three other key institutes of the Hohenheim Centre for Agriculture in the Tropics and Subtropics, there is cooperation with the Institute of Soil Science, the Institute of Plant Nutrition and the Institute of Plant Protection of the University of Hohenheim. While implementing various research projects in many countries in Southern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America the researchers also work closely with national and international research institutions.
Well at the moment we have carried out one field study, where we tested the idea using an annual grass (E. tef) with Sorghum and Cowpea. The experiment went well considering we had a drought and large pest invasion. This first field experiment taught me a lot about the challenges and pitfalls of field experiments. This means that I am better prepared to continue the next phase. We have some interesting data which shows advantages in yield for the grasses and there definite advantages in terms of soil moisture. However the ratio's of beans to cereal to grass need to be adjusted. Additionally, and fundamentally we need to test the theory with perennial grasses which really have different competitive strategies in a cropping system.
So now we have a collaboration with Pretoria University and we are very excited about bringing European Institutions into closer collaboration with South African institutions. I personally feel that German/South African collaboration in the sustainable agricultural community is weak.
We intend on doing this project on larger scale with soil scientists as well and entomologists adding their insights into the benefits of grasses to soil organic matter and microbial activity as well and the bio-control and pest dynamics that grasses can bring.
So anyone else with an idea who wants to do a study on some aspect, please get hold of me. I would be happy to discuss you.
I am not a specialist in pest dynamics but we had an invasion of army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) which decimated the mono-crop of grass, but left the inter-cropped grass alone. This was remarkable. So I would love someone to elaborate on these dynamics. I would imagine that the inter-cropped sorghum or cowpea broke the continuity of the grass crop, making it "attackable" for the army worm.