Best practices in sustainable land management
Examples from the SPI report
In 2017, UNCCD’s Science Policy Interface (SPI) published a report showcasing several dozen examples of individual sustainable land management (SLM) best practices selected from scientific journal articles, research papers and SLM databases (including WOCAT). This information is categorised by land use type and technology group.
The WOCAT global database on SLM
The WOCAT database is one of the largest SLM global databases. The database contains more than 2,180 SLM practices from 130 countries, in twelve different languages, including best practices reported by UNCCD Parties.
Best practice examples
An analysis of field survey results and a conceptual model of the factors that influence cropping and fallowing practices on small farms in Brazil. A multi-fallow cultivation system that used rice, corn and bitter manioc in various relay-intercropping combinations was the most common cultivation practice observed.
Fallowing is the practice of leaving land unseeded for a long time so that the soil regains its fertility. The technology helps the soil to increase nutrients, which will later be beneficial for production purposes in the following season(s). Ploughing is carried out in the dry season and weeding takes place throughout. Note: For this SLM technology case, the SPI report on Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change refers to: Scatena, F.N., et al. 1996. Cropping and fallowing sequences of small farms in the “terra firme” landscape of the Brazilian Amazon: a case study from Santarem, Para. Ecological Economics, 29-40.
A Chagga home garden is a complex multi-cropping system evolved over several centuries through a gradual transformation of the natural forest. It integrates numerous multipurpose trees and shrubs with food crops and animals, without a specific spatial arrangement. However, vertically, the following 4 stories/canopies can be distinguished: (1) food crops; (2) coffee; (3) bananas; and (4) trees. This multilayer system maximizes the use of limited land in a highly populated area, making sustained production possible with a minimum of external inputs, minimises risk (less production failure, increased resistance against droughts and pests) and ensures at the same time environmental protection.
Multiple cropping is an agronomic practice of growing two or more crops on the same land simultaneously in a given growing season. The crops grown together are, however, harvested at different times. The purpose is to avoid risk (some crops are more resistant or escape the adverse conditions like drought, pest and disease) and to get variety of produce at a time. Annual crops are sown/planted every season. Biannual and perennial crops are planted and managed according to their seasonal calendar in which the crops grown to provide better production. Low fertility status, unpredictable and erratic rainfall, pest and diseases are some of the constraints limiting productivity.
The technology involves intercropping wheat in an existing apricot orchard by integrating different resources. Along the trees aligned on a contour, a three metre wide grass strip is left uncultivated to control runoff, and to protect the ground from splash erosion. Spacing between rows allows unhindered farm operations.
Perennial grasses in orchards and vineyards between rows to provide permanent soil cover. Green cover comprises naturally-occurring, or sown, perennial grasses which form the permanent soil cover. It is an effective practice to provide a natural supply of mineral elements to the soil surface, while the stabilisation of root system improves the soil physical properties. The permanent soil cover prevents water erosion and limits the leaching of nutrients and pesticides. Note: For this SLM technology case, the SPI report on Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change, refers to: McGourty, G. 1994. Cover crops for North Coast vineyards. Practical Winery & Vineyard 15 (2), 8–15.
Crop rotation is an agronomic practice that consists of the successive cultivation of different crops in a specified order on the same fields. In the past, legumes were commonly used as a biological and economic source of Nitrogen. Nowadays, Nitrogen-fixing legumes have been recovering as viable crops because of the increased cost of Nitrogen fertilizer and the need to develop more sustainable farming systems. The crop rotation combines phases of legumes of different duration, in which Nitrogen is fixed and accumulates in the soil, followed by phases of cereal growing during which accumulated Nitrogen is extracted.
Technique used to restore degraded rangelands (steppe areas). Small shallow ‘pits’ are scooped out by the action of inclined metal disks (similar to the disks of a disk plough). A seed hopper mounted on the top releases small quantities of range-plant seeds into the pits and an attached light harrow covers the seeds with a thin layer of loose topsoil. For optimal reestablishment of vegetation, grazing should be controlled during the initial establishment phase.
Transformation of degraded pastureland to high quality fodder plot. Grass and legumes are planted on degraded pasture land in fenced fodder plots to improve the availability of quality forage and fodder for livestock during the dry season and to feed small ruminants. The technology also reduces runoff, increases water infiltration during the rains and lessens the effect of floods.