Project final report
Soil-based challenges for cropping in Shan State (nutrient acquisition) - Final Report
This project, led by Southern Cross University in Australia and the Department of Agriculture (DoA; Land Use Division) in Myanmar, aimed to investigate the use of hedge-rows and contour banks to minimise erosion on sloping lands; demonstrate the use of living legume cover crops in maize fields to minimise erosion; investigate the use permanent pastures to replace the traditional fallow phase; and demonstrate the benefits of new soybean varieties and rhizobia for improved soybean production.
Agricultural productivity in the Shan state of Myanmar is constrained by many factors, in particular, soil constraints including high phosphorus fixation and generally low soil fertility due to removal of nutrients in residues (especially relevant for potassium). Erosion of topsoil also occurs during the cropping phases of rotations and in the fallow phase used in traditional shifting cultivation. Owing to population pressure, intensification of agriculture has resulted in traditional 6-10-year fallow phases being reduced to 1-2 years, during which time the land does not recover, and severe erosion occurs.
The COVID-19 pandemic and a military coup hindered plans to conduct a more thorough investigation of soil constraints and solutions with farmers and other stakeholders in Shan State. While the field trials in this small research activity have limited statistical power, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that hedgerow systems or cover cropping in maize crops could result in improved yield, reduced erosion and can benefit soil fertility.