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The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has put together a guide about intensifying crop production in sustainable ways. The guide’s overview states, “The ‘Save and Grow’ model of crop production intensification, proposed by FAO, aims at increasing both yields and nutritional quality, while reducing costs to farmers and the environment.” The content is geared toward the world’s three main grain crops: rice, wheat and maize.
Many of the “ecosystem-based farming systems” described in the guide are ones that have been promoted by ECHO for years, including conservation agriculture, integrated pest management (IPM), the push-pull system, SRI, slash-and-mulch, and gm/ccs. Examples in the guide also show benefits of integrating animal production and forestry with cereal production. 
The “Save and Grow in Practice” document has four sections. Part 1 gives an overview of challenges threatening cereal production, including climate change, environmental degradation and yield plateaus. Part 2 describes five key practices that contribute to sustainability: conservation agriculture, healthy soil, improved crops and varieties, efficient water management, and integrated pest management (IPM). Part 3 shares eleven examples of sustainable farming systems from Africa, Asia, and Central America. 
Part 4 of the document includes an initial brief review of what has and has not worked in the introduction and spread of the farming systems described in Part 3. It follows with ten “actions recommended for consideration by countries making the transition to the sustainable intensification of maize, rice and wheat production.” The early summary of Part 4 states, “The transition to sustainable crop production intensification requires fundamental changes in the governance of food and agriculture. Making these changes depends on a realistic assessment of the full costs of making the necessary transitions. It also requires the careful adaptation of sustainable farming practices and technologies to site-specific conditions.” 
“Save and Grow in Practice” is worth a look if you are interested in learning about sustainable intensification of grain crops, and/or about ways to expand such systems. The document is freely available online in multiple formats at http://www.fao.org/publications/save-and-grow/maize-rice-wheat/en/. The 100+ page document includes extensive references for those who would like to dig even deeper. 

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • ISBN-10: 978-92-5-108519-6