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Enhancing food security in semi-arid eastern Indonesia through permanent raised-bed cropping: A review

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Van Cooten, D.E. and Borrell, A.K. (1999) Enhancing food security in semi-arid eastern Indonesia through permanent raised-bed cropping: A review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 39 (8). pp. 1035-1046. ISSN 0816-1089


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/EA99054


Much of south-eastern Indonesia is mountainous and characterised by a semi-arid tropical environment. Soil erosion is a significant environmental problem facing the region, affecting both productivity of the land and water quality. The challenge for the region is to secure year-round food production in such a fragile environment. More than 90% of rain falls in a distinct wet season between November and April. Therefore, cropping in this region is dependent on matching crop growth with water supply. In particular, crop production depends on the efficient use of rainfall during the wet season, including avoidance of waterlogging, and efficient use of stored soil water during the dry season.
This paper summarises the results of a series of experiments undertaken in West Timor, Indonesia, between 1993 and 1999 aimed at developing a raised-bed cropping system. The objective of these studies was to better utilise the more fertile alluvial soils that are often susceptible to waterlogging during the wet season, allowing a range of crops to be grown in addition to rice.

Raised beds of height 0.2 m and width 1.5 m were constructed either manually or with an 8.5 hp two-wheeled hand tractor. A range of crops including soybeans, sorghum, maize, pigeon pea, yam bean and cassava were successfully grown on raised beds in the wet season in addition to rice, indicating that raised-bed technology overcomes the constraints of waterlogging in the wet season. Soybeans grew particularly well on raised beds, with December-sown crops producing almost twice the yield of January-sown crops (2.6 v. 1.4 t/ha). For rice and soybeans, early sown crops were better able to match growth with water supply, thereby avoiding end-of-season drought. Early sowing and harvesting of wet season crops enables a drought-resistant crop such as sorghum to be planted in lateMarch or early April, utilising the stored soil moisture for grain production and also maintaining ground cover in the dry season.

It is argued that cropping systems based on permanent raised beds can reduce erosion in 2 ways. First, raised beds are a permanent structure and, with the inter-cropping and relay-cropping proposed, crops can provide all-year ground cover in lowland areas. Second, if sufficient food and cash crops are grown on raised beds to meet the basic needs of subsistence farmers, then upland cropping on steep slopes can be replaced by a variety of tree species, providing additional food, fodder, firewood and medicines. Together, these strategies have the capacity to enhance food production and security in the semi-arid areas of eastern Indonesia.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural education > Agricultural extension work
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Live Archive:05 Mar 2024 23:45
Last Modified:05 Mar 2024 23:45

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