Sustainable and profitable crop and livestock systems for south-central coastal Vietnam
ACIAR Research Program Manager
ACIAR and the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) have agreed on integrated research and development to produce sustainable and profitable crop and livestock systems for the south-central coastal region of Vietnam. This region is characterised by sandy infertile soils and a long dry season (6-9 months) and has lower income levels than other regions of Vietnam. Thus this multi-disciplinary project aims to identify and facilitate adoption of promising resource management practices for sustainable and profitable crop and livestock production systems best suited to local conditions and able to improve market engagement - focusing on the provinces of Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Ninh Thuan with an emphasis on coastal and sloping areas less than 400 metres above sea level. It involves four linked components; the first three are part of this project, and the fourth is part of project SMCN/2003/035. The components are:
Value chain analysis for sustainable and profitable farming systems on the south-central coast
Sustainable cropping systems for sandy soils of south-central Vietnam
Better integration of beef cattle production with crop production systems in south-central coastal Vietnam
Improving the utilisation of water and soil resources for tree crop production in coastal areas (SMCN/ 2003/035).
Focus areas are: cashew and/or mango intercropped with legumes such as peanut and soybean or non-legumes such as cassava on aeolian and granitic sands; vegetable production systems (onion, garlic, tomato) on coastal sands; beef cattle production integrated with forage and field crop production.
Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)
Interim report: covering period January to May 2009
A visit to the south central coast was held between February 9-26, 2009:
To visit field sites with potential for research
To attend the project inception meeting
Planning a visit to Australia of Vietnamese partners
To develop workplans for project activities
The following outcomes were developed at the inception meeting:
A project committee was established to review the directions, progress, gaps and overlaps and determine adjustments; comprising:
- Dr Gamini Keerisinghe ACIAR
- Australian Project Coordinator Rob Summers
- Australian Project Leaders, Richard Bell, Allan McKay, Peter Lane, Peter Slavich
- Vietnamese Project Leaders, Hoang Minh Tam, Nguyen Xuan Ba, Nguyen Duy Duc
- VAAS nominee
- Vietnamese partners, Phan Thi Giac Tam (plus IAS nominee, SOFRI nominee, RDCAH nominee,)
Project locations were identified through interaction with the Vietnamese partners after considering soil type, land use and the representative value of the site. The sites are:
- Ninh Thuan, Phuoc Dinh (Phuoc Nam Cashews)
- Phu Yen, An Chan
- Binh Dinh, Cat Hanh, Cat Hiep
An extension to the survey carried out by ACIAR Project SMCN-2003-035 "Improving the utilisation of water and soils resources for tree crop production in coastal areas of Vietnam and NSW" will include further information relevant to this project discussed below.
Workplans have been developed for the first 12 month showing the project activities and tasks, the responsible party, the timing of the activities and dependencies.
The contract was signed between the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia and ACIAR with the commencement date of January 2009 and the final MSA agreements were signed 20 May 2009. At the time of writing the project had not officially started as this finalised agreement has not been received from Vietnam and the initial payments have been delayed.
Although no milestones or outputs have fallen due by 31 May 2009 progress has been made during and since the inception meeting:
Discussions at the inception meeting identified an opportunity to collaborate with NSW DPI as part of the ACIAR project SMCN 2003/035. The Vietnamese partners will be at a training course and present information at the Biochar Conference, Coolangata in May. In the following week Dr Hoang Minh Tam and Mr Nguyen Thai Thinh will travel to W.A. to meet the Australian research staff who were not at the inception meeting, discuss details of the project and visit research sites. The visit was originally scheduled for September 2010 (attendance of Australian staff has delayed the May visit to Vietnam by Australian partners to June).
Initial marketing survey information collected in site visits after the inception meeting detailed in the travel report Feb 2009 has enabled an initial analysis of the information requirements and strategy of collecting the baseline information of Component 1.
An assessment of the survey by SMCN 2003/035 was completed and gaps in the survey for the purposes of this project were identified for a follow-up survey. A draft of the farm survey has been constructed by the Vietnamese partners with input from Australian researchers and will be finalised in June 2009 for implementation.
The detailed work plans were developed for the diagnosis of resources constraints using soil investigation and omission experimentation approach.
A conceptual model of nutrient flow in the local farming systems was developed.
The trial list of forage species was developed for integration into the local cropping systems in discussion with Dr Tam when in Perth.
Dr Tam and Mr Thinh visited Esperance, WA to see study sites on impact of land use on soil carbon.
A database of nutritive characteristics has been commenced including the commencement of collection of available feed information and commencement of literature reviews of cattle performance at HUAF and IAS.
The data needs for the CPCNS is being evaluated for a training course and a farming systems workshop for the specialist and provincial team is being planned. This will be finalised in Hue and Quy Nhon in June 2009.
Collection of available cattle nutrition information has commenced to assess gaps and develop an experimental plan.
Pham Hung Cuong at UQ has completed his literature review and planning is well under way for his experiment.
Future visits are scheduled in June 2009 to discuss the field trial program and survey initiation and in September 2009 for a workshop on monitoring and evaluation for impact assessment.
2009/2010 Progress Summary
Effort has focussed on a farm survey of 180 households from the three study sites to obtain the information on human resources, education level, land resources, cropping systems, socio-economic system, area and yield of major crops/livestock and fertiliser/manure use for crop production. This is critical for the project to better understand local farming systems; identify the characteristics of farming systems that could be used to plan R&D activities at each study site; provide benchmark data on the current crop production and practices for the proposed future project impact evaluation.
Preliminary market mapping and value chains of selected agricultural products, including beef cattle, cassava, cashew nut and mango has been completed. The gathering of data and information on grain legume (peanut) markets and value chain has started. The farm and household economic structure and systems have been identified and will be included in the market chain analysis.
Soil constraints were investigated through: a detailed SCAMP assessment at 16 sites on the major soils in the study area; a nutrient omission experiment on peanuts and tissue analysis of cashews. Deficiencies of a wide range of nutrients were the primary factors limiting crop production. Al toxicity appears to be limiting growth and deficiencies in K and Mo were quite clear. N and P also were limiting production and the impact of Zn and B limiting growth in peanuts needs to be further investigated.
Within the survey program 91 samples were collected to quantify the organic matter resources and potential nutrient supplies being used and traded.
In the low rainfall region (Ninh Thuan) a field experiment evaluated sowing windows and crop legume species for cashew/legume intercropping. Results suggested that early September was the optimum window to intercrop legumes with cashew, and peanut crop yield was consistently higher across the 4 sowing dates than cowpea and mungbean (although cowpea showed some potential for this region). In the high rainfall Binh Dinh province the use of rhizobium strains, Mo and biochar were investigated and preliminary results suggest that use of the commercial strain of inoculant, NC92, could improve peanut dry matter at flowering when coupled with low applications of N fertiliser.
Forage nurseries were established in Jan/Feb 2010 in Binh Dinh as a collaboration of Components 2 and 3. Twelve forage species were included in the nurseries: 4 perennial grasses, 4 perennial legumes, 3 annual legumes and 1 tree legume. The perennial grasses, Mulato II and Signal, the perennial legume, Siratro and the annual legumes, Lab lab and Cavalvade, showed good establishment and vigour. The forage nursery will be a useful resource for producing plant material for use in the 'best-bet' stage of the project where best bet strategies for cattle production are introduced in the extension program.
Detailed benchmarking of cattle management factors has focused on 5 households from two villages in each study commune, a total of 30 households. The monthly or bi-monthly survey includes a combination of biophysical monitoring and questions regarding economics and labour allocations. The benchmarking process involved group discussions and interviews, including farmers, DARD representatives and commune leaders.
More specific cattle nutrition experimental objectives will be developed once the baseline work had been completed, and will be a major activity for the next 12 months. Farmer interviews have helped clarify the issues relevant to farmer profitability and suitable to be addressed by the project team. Although the details are still being developed, cattle nutrition experimentation will focus on the most profitable use of locally available feed components for growing and finishing cattle.
Importantly, good relationships are developing with DARD and commune leaders and extension officers, which will help the project to have impact beyond the life of the project. We have presented the objectives and process of the project to these stakeholders on multiple occasions, and they have expressed their support and a desire to remain involved and informed. In each commune we also have the extension officer involved in the benchmarking process, including liaising with farmers and participating in data collection.
Research is being carried out in Western Australia by the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA, Murdoch University, University of Western Australia and CSIRO. A survey of 100 sites was completed in south-west Australia to understand the role of organic carbon management in nutrient retention. Field experiments were established at Esperance in the South East of Western Australia on sandy soil. Compost is being compared with biochar made from straw or manure to examine their impacts on soil biology and the efficient uptake of nutrients from fertiliser.
ACIAR and the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) have agreed that an integrated research and development project on Sustainable and Profitable Crop and Livestock Systems should be developed for the South-central coastal region of Vietnam at a stakeholder workshop held in March 2008. This in turn led to the development of the current project which commencedoperation on 1 January, 2009.
The overall aim of this multi-disciplinary project is to identify and facilitate adoption of promising resource management practices for sustainable and profitable crop and livestock production systems best suited to local conditions that enable improved market engagement.
The project Baseline survey was concluded for the sandy coastal zone of the South Central region of Vietnam where people's livelihoods are largely dependent on crop and livestock farming in these inherently poor soils. The objective of this study was to gain better understanding of the local farming systems of the sandy areas in the focus communes of the three study provinces. Based on a diagnosis analysis and Participatory Rural Approach (PRA) works, villages from three communes were selected: Phu Kim and An Duc (Cat Trinh commune, Phu Cat district, Binh Dinh province); Phu Qui, Phu Thanh and Phu Phong (An Chan commune, Tuy An district, Phu Yen province) and; Son Hai 1, Son Hai 2, Bau Ngu and Tu Thien (Phuoc Dinh commune, Ninh Phuoc district, Ninh Thuan province). By a targeting sampling method, 180 households from the three study siteswere chosen.Dependence on agriculture is the typical feature of the economy in all study sites. Most agricultural activities depend on rainfall: lack of water or drought was recorded in most study sites. There is a trend occurring in cropping patterns to more diversification. In the cropping systems, food crops including rice, peanut and cassava are the most popular. In the animal production systems, pig, buffalo, cattle and sheep are raised by most households. Average cattle numbers range from 3.5 (Cat Trinh and An Chan), to 14 (Phuoc Dinh).
Most farms are small, with little possibility for expansion. The only unused land potential is in sandy land in the lowlands and coastal strip. The crop productivity is still low due to infertile land and shortage of water. For most households, therefore few options exist to improve incomes other than increasing production from their limited agricultural plots. In order to reach this goal, the improvement of soil fertility based on the locally available organic resources as well as the application of appropriate farming systems in the sandy zone are very important.
Farming systems in Cat Trinh and An Chan communes are similar. Here, rice is still the dominant crop. By contrast, Phuoc Dinh commune is characterized by high proportion of cash crops like watermelon, chillipepper, tomato, peanut and little rice.Livestock mainly includes pig, cattle and poultry in three communes and there are also goat and sheep in Phuoc Dinh commune. However, the numbers of households with cattle was still small in all 3 communes.
In a follow up surveyin the same three communes, 91 organic materials were collected in 2009 to examine the existing practices of using organic manures, the characteristics of local organic amendments and to assess their potential contribution in supplying nutrients to crops. The samples included: cattle manure, buffalo manure, pig manure, sheep manure, plant samples (peanut stem, cassava leaf, corn leaf, straw) and ash from crops.Farmers in the selected communes utilize organic materials for various purposes such as fuel, soil amendment or animal feed, or else they are burnt on the fields. The surveyed households apply farmyard manure (FYM) for crops; however, amounts of FYM used for crops are very low compared with crops' nutrient requirements. There were no significant differences in characteristics (C, total P) of organic samples used by farmers in the 3 surveyed communes. However, each kind of manure and organic material has different characteristics depending on the animal type and amount of added materials, method and time of storage. Among different kinds of FYM, pig manure has better quality than others, followed by cattle manure, while peanut residues have good characteristics as compared with other plant residues.
The market analysis work has focussed on conducting and reporting value chain analyses for key agricultural products within the focus provinces of Ninh Thuan, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh. Value chain analyses have been completed for cashew, cassava, beef cattle and peanuts and reports have been circulated seeking feedback to DARD's and to project partners at the Annual Review meeting in February 2011. The mango value chain report has now been completed and will be circulated for feedback from the DARD officers (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development).
Further work is still required to develop detailed value chain improvement strategies based on the findings of the value chain analyses and discussions with DARD and project staff.
A successful value chain training workshop was held for component 1 staff and key DARD staff in HCMC in August 2010 in order to consolidate and standardise the methodology used for the project value chain analyses.
In July 2010, following requests from DARD and ASISOV management, a value chain analysis of sesame was programmed into the project. Sesame is a high value product in strong market demand and can potentially complement grain legume cropping on sandy soils in Vietnam. ASISOV staff have responsibility for conducting the sesame research which is valuable in focusing the ASISOV contribution to component 1.
An Excel-based farm economic model is being developed to allow the simple economic comparison of farm enterprises and farming systems economic performance. Data collected in a detailed farm economic survey of a small number of smallholders in the 3 focus provinces has been used to frame the model. The beta-version of the model is expected to be completed in July 2011. This is intended a simple tool for reviewing potential financial outcomes from value chain improvements and changes to on-farm cropping/livestock activities.
Soil constraints were investigated through: a detailed SCAMP assessment at 37 sites on the major soils in the study areas (11 in Ninh Thuan; 10 in Phu Yen; 15 in Phu Cat); four nutrient omission experiments on peanuts and tissue analysis of peanut, mango and cashews. Deficiencies of a wide range of nutrients were the primary factors limiting crop production. Deficiencies in K, S, Cu, B and Mo were consistently found in peanut in Phu Cat district.Even though many profiles are strongly acid, Al toxicity does not appear to be limiting growth. Nitrogen was also limiting production and the impact of hardpan development (10-25 cm) on growth in peanuts needs to be further investigated. Rhizobium inocuation was not able to overcome the need for 30 kg N/ha as a basal N application. Biochar improved peanut production on sands, particularly in combination with manure and NPK fertiliser.
Nutrient-balance exercises are considered as instruments to provide indicators for the sustainability of agricultural systems. Studieswere undertaken at field plot and farm levels in farming systems of South Central provinces to quantify inputs and outputs of macronutrients (NPK) over one year duration. Our results indicate that the N balances at the 30 studied farms were positive showing that 50 to 70 % of imported N, mainly as fertilizer, was not exported from the farm. Phosphorus balance was also always positive at farm level, accounting for 40 to 75% of P input. Potassium balance was positive in most of the farms. More detailed N-P-K balances were established for field plots representing the following cropping patterns over two growing seasons: rice - rice, rice - fallow, peanut - fallow, peanut + cassava, hot pepper, eggplant, forage. Nitrogen balance was largely positive for rice-rice plots; N imports were less than exports in the other cropping patterns. P imports exceeded P exports in all studied plots, whereas K exports always exceeded K imports, more especially for rice-rice and hot pepper, eggplant and forage. These results suggest that macronutrient losses occur in farms, out of the fields, especially for K. These are likely to be in managing crop residues, in farmyard manures processing, in animal faeces recycling. The economic and environmental consequences of nutrient imbalances warrant further attention to optimize nutrient cycling, and utilisation of organic resources, in local farming systems. In the case of K, negative balances at field level raise the question of impact of this element in limiting crop yield, and the mechanism of K loss.
In the low rainfall region (Ninh Thuan) two field experiments evaluated sowing windows for crop legume species under cashew/legume intercropping on granite sands. Results for 2009 suggested that early September was the optimum window to intercrop legumes with cashew, and peanut crop yield was consistently higher across the 4 sowing dates than cowpea and mungbean (although cowpea showed good potential). In 2010, the early September sowing was also best for mung bean and cowpea, but not for peanut. Cowpea appears the most promising legumes for this cropping system, but at least another year's testing is needed to validate these findings.
In the high rainfall Binh Dinh province the use of rhizobium strains, Mo and biochar were investigated and results suggest that use of the commercial strain of inoculant, NC92, could improve peanut dry matter at flowering only when coupled with low applications of N fertiliser. However, overall, 30 kg N/ha was the best treatment, out yielding Mo and or Rhizobium inoculation. Nodule formation on peanut, even with inoculation by NC92 and Mo supply, was slow on these sandy soils.
Forage nurseries were established in Jan/Feb 2010 in Binh Dinh. Twelve forage species were included in the nurseries: 4 perennial grasses, 4 perennial legumes, 3 annual legumes and 1 tree legume. The perennial grasses, Mulato II and Signal, the perennial legume, Siratro and the annual legumes, Lab lab and Cavalvade, showed good establishment and initial vigour. After 15 months and 5 cuts, Mulato II and Paspalaum atratum were the most productive forages. None of the legumes forages produced harvestable dry matter after the 3 rd cut due to severe waterlogging effects in the wet season, and Leucanea being initially harvested too severely. The forage nursery will be useful as a resource for producing plant material for cattle best bet activities.
A forage experiment was established to assess the most promising forages and expose farmers to the species. The experiment was located on 15 farms across three provinces, with each farm as a replicate. In addition to the researcher controlled plots, an area of each forage was available for farmer use and experimentation. The experiment was planted mid-2010, however short cutting too close to the base of the plants before the rainy season severely affected many of the replicates, including some which became completely submerged in the peak of the wet season. These conditions provided an opportunity to show the beneficial characteristics of Paspalum atratum, and also to demonstrate the potential benefits of not cutting the plants too short during the rainy season. The experiment is ongoing and is being assessed by harvests for yield, leaf to stem ratio, forage quality, palatability, and farmer assessment.
In Western Australia,research being carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA and Murdoch University has focussed on soil organic carbon (SOC) accumulation, and on biochar and clay amendments of sands. A survey of 100 sites was completed in the south coastal region of West Australia to understand the effect of land use onSOC in sands. A comparison of SOC between perennial (> 10 years age) and annual pastures in the high rainfall zone of the south coast showed no difference in SOC. Modelling with Roth-C indicated that the perennial pasture system would need to be retained for 30 years or more before measureable increases in SOC were obtained. This suggests very slow accumulation of SOC on these sands.
Field experiments were established near Esperance in the south coastal region of West Australia on sandy soils. Compost was compared with biochar made from straw or manure to examine their impacts on soil biology and the uptake of nutrients from P fertiliser. Both P and biochar application increased wheat yield in 2010 but the effects were independent. Spading to mix clay into sandy soils was most effective in increasing serradella pasture yield when incorporated to 15 cm depth.
Cattle 'biophysical monitoring' activities were concluded in the three study provinces. Information was collected from 10 households per province, including cattle monitoring, feed monitoring, and household data, particularly information on income and labour for cattle production. In Cat Trinh and An Chan, cattle systems included cow-calf, growing and fattening, and was mainly undertaken by adults. In contrast, cattle production in Phuoc Dinh is predominantly the cow-calf system, and the children provide much of the labour for cattle husbandry. Cattle in Cat Trinh and An Chan typically lose weight in the dry season from April-June, when feed is scarce and of poor quality. There are many types of feeds for cattle. The roughages include rice straw, native grasses, sown grasses, peanut straw, water spinach, and maize stover. Supplements are also used, including cassava powder, rice bran, corn meal, rice grain, fishmeal, and urea. Cattle are often provided feed in their stalls after grazing. In Phuoc Dinh less crop residues are available, and even though some crop residues such as rice straw are transported into the commune, feed is often limiting, and cattle weight is seasonally dependent.
Approximately fifteen farmers in each province were chosen to be involved in the 'best-bet' research process. A plan was developed for each household, based on their resources, interests, and aspirations. All households receive regular visits to check on progress, help the farmers, provide encouragement, and answer questions. Best-bet activities include introduction of new forages, improved forage management and use, tree legume fences, forage preservation, controlled mating, preferential feeding, fattening techniques, and manure use. In addition to individual training workshops are being held to address these activities. For example, in March 2011 a workshop on forage planting and management was held.
A cattle feeding experiment was undertaken at IAS Ruminant Research and Training Centre (RRTC) in late 2010 and early 2011. The aim of the research was to assess the growth and nutrient digestibility responses of Brahman-cross cattle to concentrate supplementation. Twenty Brahman-cross cattle were fed a basal diet (rice straw and Guinea grass) and supplement at 0 - 2.4% of live weight. The supplement consisted of cassava chips, rice bran, crushed rice, fish meal, urea, and salt. Some chemical analyses are still being completed, and data analysis is being undertaken. Interim results suggest that live weight gain increased with supplementation up to 1.2% of live weight, and plateaued at greater levels of supplementation. Feed conversion ratio increased with the level of supplementation.
The data from five cattle feeding experiments undertaken at HUAF were compared with simulation results using the Large Ruminant Nutrition System (LRNS). The objective of this study was to evaluate the predictions of dry matter intake (DMI) andaverage daily gain (ADG) of Vietnamese Yellow (Vang) purebred and crossbred (Vang with Red Sindhior Brahman) bulls fed under Vietnamese conditions using two levels of solution (1 and 2) of the LargeRuminant Nutrition System (LRNS) model.The results showed that the model is able to sufficiently predict weight gain of such Vietnamese cattle.
Overall the project is running to the workplan and already generating preliminary results. Capacity building through scholarships, training researchers and extension officers has been ongoing. There has been strong participation from Vietnamese researchers, commune staff, farmers and importantly the officers of the regional DARDs. Assessment of the economic analysis of crops is highlighting potential improvements as are the investigations into plant nutrition which are already showing clear direction for research and extension. The farmer and regional participation in animal nutrition and husbandry extension and forage trials has seen adoption already beginning to spread.