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Design of a Soil-based Climate-Smartness Index (SCSI) using the trend and variability of yields and soil organic carbon

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Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) has had an increasing role in the agricultural policy arena, as it aims to address climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security goals in an integrated way. In regions where agriculture has been constrained because of soil degradation and climate change, CSA aims to implement soil-based strategies that restore soil function and increase carbon storage. The extent to which such strategies succeed in achieving mitigation, adaptation and productivity goals is referred to as climate-smartness. The co-evolution of yield and Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) over the years presents a proxy for the trade-off between productivity, soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Yield and SOC are widely monitored, analysed and used to inform CSA planning. Yet their analysis is often conducted separately and for a small number of years, which neglects long-term soil fertility dynamics and their impact on crops. Given the absence of integrated climate-smartness metrics to capture the trade-offs and synergies between SOC and yield, we present a soil-based Climate-Smartness Index (SCSI). The SCSI is computed using normalized indicators of trend and variability of annual changes on yield and SOC data. The SCSI was calculated for a set of published experiments that compared Conservation Agriculture (CA) practices with conventional management. The CA treatments scored higher SCSI during the first 5 years of evaluation as compared to conventional management. Analysis of the temporal dynamics of climate-smartness indicated that minimum SCSI values typically occurred before 5 years after the start of the experiment, indicating potential trade-offs between SOC and yield. Conversely, SCSI values peaked between 5 and 10 years. After 20 years, the SCSI tended towards zero, as substantial changes in either SOC or yield are no longer evidenced. The SCSI can be calculated for annual crops under any soil management and at different time periods, providing a consistent metric for climate-smartness across both practices and time.

Citation

Arenas-Calle L, Ramirez-Villegas J, Whitfield S, Challinor A. 2021. Design of a Soil-based Climate-Smartness Index (SCSI) using the trend and variability of yields and soil organic carbon. Agricultural Systems 190:103086.