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Free Content The Whole farm financial implications of different tillage systems on different crop rotations in the Swartland area of the Western Cape, South Africa

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A Conservation agriculture (CA) is one of the most holistic sustainable agricultural practices yet. It reduces environmental degradation, and concurrently it could enhance farm profitability. A large proportion of the commercial grain producers in the Middle Swartland in the Western Cape Province of South Africa have adopted CA to varying degrees. Adoption of CA in South Africa, has taken place in the absence of any policy support framework directed to CA.

The physical/biological benefits of CA are well known. The financial implications of the various systems within CA, at farm-level varies. Farm systems are complex, consisting of numerous interrelated components, and different farmers’ views, preferences and skill sets. A whole-farm budget model is developed within a systems approach to compare various farming systems designed within CA principles. Multi-disciplinary group discussions are used to bridge the gap between disciplinary scientific knowledge. To serve as a basis for comparison, the whole-farm model was based on a typical farm within the Middle Swartland relative homogeneous farming area.

The financial evaluation of the various farming systems showed that conventional agricultural practices of monoculture and deep tillage are financially unsustainable. The financial benefits of CA are directly related to improved soil health, lower weed and pest stress and improved yields. The CA farming systems were less susceptible to variations in external factors, highlighting the resilience of the system that incorporates crop rotation and no-till.

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Keywords: Conservation agriculture; budget modelling; no-till; resilience; sustainability; systems thinking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2017

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