Production Systems

Development of innovative biomass-based primary production systems

Work in this cluster basically asks: How can we produce more biomass more efficiently and with better quality? The innovation potential in primary biomass production systems will be investigated by developing concepts for the “seed-to-farmgate” sections in value webs.

Concepts will be developed to (a) develop phenotyping-based networks and approaches for breeding; (b) bring innovative, low-cost ways to provide high-quality planting material to family farmers; (c) integrate food and non-food biomass-providing components (crops, trees, secondary vegetation on fallow lands and agroforestry systems) into enhanced production systems; and increasing their sustainability by managing and recycling residues and byproducts more efficiently, and (d) spatially adapt the land use patterns to the requirements of improved production systems. These questions will be partly addressed in case studies (examples are phenotyping; the development of planting material in bananas; agroforestry systems and the integration of bamboo), partly through a systems perspective on land use pattern allocation and energy efficiency of family farms. Results from cluster 4 will be used to improve the crop system models in WP 2.1 and the value web system analysis in WP.3.1.

WP 4.1 “Phenotyping” addresses the role of improved, faster breeding in achieving food security and increased production efficiency. Plant phenotyping quickly and reliably provides quantitative information on best-performance crop traits crucial for breeding and farming. This WP will enhance the use of modern technologies in African agricultural research enabling participation in phenotyping networks and the adaptation of low-cost approaches based on state-of-the-art approaches employed at Research Center Jülich. A demand oriented perspective is chosen in which empirically well-performing crop varieties will be identified tested and implemented in close cooperation with the African partners, and low-cost, locally adapted research and management techniques will be developed for Africa.

WP 4.2 “Innovative propagation technologies”: Due to the specific genomics of bananas and plantains, their planting material is obtained by vegetative propagation and not from seeds; family farmers have limited access to affordable good, pathogen-free material from culture. This WP addresses a crucial aspect for family-based multi-purpose agriculture systems, by developing a production line for high-quality, low-cost in-vitro-culture planting material.

WP 4.3 “Agroforestry systems” examines the potential of agroforestry systems to deliver on their promises of food security, ecological sustainability and income generation. Agroforestry comprises resource-efficient, complex land use systems that integrate satisfying local demands for food and energy with the production of complementary biomass-derived byproducts, providing ecological services to rural households and the ecosystem as a whole.

WP 4.4 “Bamboo biomass” addresses innovative management and utilization for bamboo to integrate this highly productive grass into agricultural and agroforestry systems and develop multi-purpose applications for bamboo biomass (culms for production of charcoal and activated carbon, protein-rich leaves for fodder).

In WP 4.5 “Integrated Assessment of Land Use Adaptation” land requirements in regional planning are calculated from land cover maps based on criteria such as the expected production of natural resources and the expected need for settlement areas and infrastructure. Difficulties arise in assessing the impact of the land use because data on the concrete management of a piece of land are often not available.
Furthermore, WP 4.5 addresses the energy efficiency of biomass production by considering the full energy used in agricultural production. Agriculture in developing countries is characterized by a large portion of energy supplied through human and animal traction, and a large part of household energy consumption provided from adjacent woodlands. Including these areas and the energies generated therein in the analysis provides not only a more realistic energy efficiency analysis for biomass production, it also allows factoring these needed “supportive areas” in land use planning.