|For millennia animals have been harnessed to pull carts, carry loads, transport people, haul water, trash harvests, plough, puddle and weed crop fields etc.|
DAP in crop residue systems
The use of DAP in land preparation allows the preparation of more land at the onset of the growing season. This is most relevant in areas with a short growing season for annual cash crops. This expansion of land under cultivation may cause increased pressure on the land around settlements and may result in less land being available for other land use options - including livestock grazing.
In these circumstances, unless the pormotion of DAP is accompanied by appropriate levels of destocking, the resulting increased livestock densities on the remaining grazing land may lead to land degradation and erosion. In some cases, this could also lead to land-based social conflict, increased levels of poverty amongst the livestock sector.
The advantage of manure produced by draught animals is often over estimated. A general estimate shows that the manure produced can compensate only ¼ of the extra requirements for manure caused by the expansion that can be realized.
Manure deficit due to Draught Animal Power
DAP increases labor productivity. However, this also makes it still beneficial to cultivate marginal land and to prolong cultivation period even when expected yields per ha are low. Next, DAP is more easily employed in fields without roots of shrubs and trees. Consequently fallow periods will be shorter to prevent such "obstacles" appearing. Apart from lower yields per ha and higher risks of crop failure, the prolongation of cultivation and the shortening of fallow periods accelerates the process of soil mining and increases the risks of erosion and land degradation. When production levels decrease and new land is available elsewhere then farmers may move to there (i.e. as is the case in Northern Cameroon). When no alternatives are available then the production level will stagnate at a low level per ha and become more vulnerable for variations in weather conditions and for diseases (i.e. as is the case in the highlands of Ethiopia).
In areas with intensive crop cultivation the basic soil fertility in general is higher and more fertilisers are used to support permanent crop cultivation. Farm sizes are small and the livestock / cropland ratio can be high. DAP is used to intensify production and can also be employed for transport and/or water hauling. Sharing of DAP and renting DAP services are common. In irrigated rice cultivation buffaloes are used for land preparation, transport and threshing.
Replacement of DAP with mechanisation
There is a trend to promote motorization in agriculture through development programs and direct or indirect subsidies. Animal traction is therefore replaced by tractor mechanisation. However, the environmental cost of such a change is largely negative notably in respect of energy requirements. Tractor mechanisation requires fossil fuel for production, maintenance and running, while working animals are produced and run on organic energy sources.
The impact is more an increase of fossil fuel requirements than a decrease in the use of available feed resources. In Indonesia for instance tractor mechanisation in irrigated agriculture resulted in buffaloes (traction) being replaced by cattle (production of calves for fattening), making use of the same resources as buffaloes did earlier. (See also the discussion on Greenhouse Gases)
References and Further Reading
FAO. (1994). Draught Animal Power: A training manual for use by extension agents. FAO. Rome. http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGA/AGAP/FRG/Draught/draught.htm
FAO. (1999). Animal Production Service. Fact-File - Draught Power. http://www.fao.org/ag/aga/agap/factfile/draught.htm
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