Wageningen University, Group Crop and Weed Ecology, Netherlands
Integration of crop and livestock systems in the tropics can be discussed at national, regional and household level. Examples of integration technology are the use of crop residues as animal feed, the use of animal manure to fertilise crops and the use of animal power to improve soil tillage and to cope with labour constraints.
Most crop residues are cereal straws of very low quality. Digestibility, crude protein content and intake need to be improved to make them useful as animal feed. Offering large quantities of these heterogeneous feeds allows for selection by the animals, treatment with urea and supplementation can upgrade the entire diet. Crop residues or legumes used as green manure can replace animal manure and allow for disentangling crop and animal production.. Characteristics determining use of plant material are C-N ratio, polyphenol content and lignin content of the residues. Including legumes or other specific crops in the cropping pattern for animal feed contribute to supporting the integration at farm household level.
Advantages of the integration of crop and livestock systems are optimisation of nutrient cycling, labour use and cash flow. It offers the opportunity to transform waste products into valuable products such as meat and milk. Households use technologies of integration to achieve livelihood outcomes such as food and nutritional security, increase in income and well-being, decrease in vulnerability and risk, and more sustainable use of natural resources. Although integration seems an option with many advantages the alternatives of diversification within one system and exchange between specialised systems may have additional benefits
Keywords: Crop systems, livestock systems