Conservation Agriculture for combating land degradation in Central Asia: a synthesis
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This manuscript reviews scientific findings on agricultural systems, associated land degradation and selected remedies such as Conservation Agricultural (CA) practices to counterbalance these. In particular, this review addresses the research findings on CA practices conducted in the rainfed and irrigated systems in Central Asia. The arid and semi-arid croplands in this region are vulnerable to different types of soil and environmental degradation, and particularly to degradation caused by intensive tillage, irrigation water mismanagement, and cropping practices, especially in the Aral Sea Basin. Overall, the evidence shows that various CA elements, such as permanent beds, seems to be technically suitable for the major cropping systems and despite the heterogeneous conditions in the region. CA practices can contribute to combating on-going land degradation. No-till seeding along with the maintenance of a permanent soil coverage e.g. by residue retention, reduces wind and water erosion, increases water infiltration and storage which can reduce crop water stress, improve soil quality and increase soil organic matter. Further, CA practices can lead to similar or even higher crop yields while reducing production resource needs and costs considerably, including fuel, seeds, agrochemicals, water and labour. Nevertheless, the growing research evidence on the productivity, economic and environmental benefits that can be harnessed with CA, still is from a limited number of studies and hence more research at local scale is needed.