A new nitrogen index to assess sustainability of cropping systems of Andean regions of South America
Delgado, Jorge A.
Saavedra, Ana Karina
Barrera, Victor H.
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Population growth, impacts from a changing climate, and other challenges highlight the need to conserve soil and water quality so that maximization of crop yields to feed the expanding world population can be achieved and sustained into future generations. The Andean regions of South America are predominantly risky landscapes that have high slopes susceptible to erosion, especially after harvesting crops that leave low amounts of crop residue such as potatoes, and/or removing the straw from grain systems following cultivation of these landscapes. Tools that can be used by technical personnel who work with local farmers on these agricultural systems are needed to enhance communication with farmers and local communities in Andean regions and increase conservation. A new Nitrogen Index available in the English and Spanish languages, in metric and English units, and with a Soil Sustainability Index, was developed and evaluated for these regions by comparing results from the tool with research data. This Index is being used as an educational tool at the Universidad Estatal de Bolìvar in Guaranda, Ecuador, and is helping its users assess the effects of management practices on the sustainability of cropping systems in their region. Preliminary results from evaluation of the new Nitrogen Index and its Soil Sustainability Index for these high-risk cropping system-landscape combinations of South America will be presented. These preliminary results suggest potential exists to use the tool to help assess effects of management practices on the sustainability of systems and on nitrogen use efficiencies in Andean regions of South America.