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On-farm assessment of different rice crop management practices in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, using sustainability performance indicators.
19/11/18 04:01PM
Alexander M. Stuart, Krishna P. Devkota, Takahiro Sato, Anny Ruth P. Pame, Carlito Balingbing and others. Field Crops Research, 2018, volume 229, pp. 103-114.
Abstract: The intensification of rice production in the Mekong delta (MKD) has helped to address food security in Vietnam and in the region. However, the overuse of inputs coupled with the rising production costs are making it increasingly difficult for smallholder rice farming in the MKD to remain economically and environmentally sustainable. Thus, there is a widely recognized need to improve the sustainability of rice cultivation in the delta. Since 2003, the Vietnam Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development has led several initiatives to improve rice crop management practices in the MKD, including the ‘One Must Do, Five Reductions’ (1M5R) integrated technology package and the ‘Small Farmer Large Field’ (SFLF) model. Under the SFLF model, some contract farming with high-quality rice exporters in MKD are also based on Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) standards, such as GlobalGAP and VietGAP, that farmers must follow for accreditation. As part of an adaptive research platform, we conducted a household survey of GAP (VietGAP and GlobalGAP), SFLF and conventional (CNV) farmers in Can Tho province in the MKD and established replicated production-scale field trials of 1M5R, with an emphasis on further reducing seed and pesticide inputs by applying limits on their use. We assessed the sustainability performance of 1M5R and the three different management approaches for rice production (i.e. GAP, SFLF and CNV) over two rice cropping seasons using eight farm-level Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) performance indicators. We demonstrated that application of 1M5R with clear limits for input use can substantially improve the sustainability of rice production in the MKD through reducing inputs that can have environmentally negative impacts (i.e. fertilizers and pesticides). In the treatment fields, mean total production cost per season fell by 23% (203 USD ha−1) and mean net income increased by 19% (175 USD ha−1), resulting in a 28% increase in the benefit: cost ratio. Five of eight farm-level SRP indicators showed an improvement in sustainability performance, whilst yield, labor productivity and water productivity were maintained. Farmers implementing GAP and SFLF management approaches were slightly more sustainable than CNV farmers, although there is scope for further improvement, especially with regards to reducing rice seed and pesticide application rates. We propose possible strategies to increase adoption of more sustainable crop management practices in the MKD.
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