Prospects for sustainable crop production technologies in East Timor : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Natural Resource Management, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The prospects of sustainable crop production technologies in East Timor were discerned with relevant case studies and experimental data. An overview of the agricultural development in East Timor with particular emphasis on the traditional farming and cropping systems was presented complemented by the discussion on the aspects of agricultural mechanization and technological change and their socioeconomic ramifications on food security. Empirical data from tillage trials, established both in East Timor and New Zealand, were gathered and discussed in the quest for a better understanding of tillage effects on soil structure and crop production environment. The agro-climatic zones of East Timor provide a well-defined set of ecological boundaries upon which further collaborative research work can be developed. Given land resources as one of the major capital investments in agriculture development, the drive towards improvement and technical change in agriculture should be directed in a balanced combination, whenever appropriate, between technologies of land-saving (hybrid seeds, irrigation, and drainage) or labour-saving (mechanization, herbicides, varieties and cropping techniques) characteristics. Moreover, the justification for acquiring an improved technology for traditional farmers, to some extent, needs to conform to the features of their subsistence mode of farming. The emphasis in technology dissemination, therefore, will have to shift from communication to education. Experimental results of this study on the effects of tillage, and no-tillage in Particular as a form of conservation tillage, on the edaphic changes affecting cropping environment generally concur with the findings known in the literature. Organic carbon levels are generally restored with cropping in East Timor. In addition, soil bulk density and crop grain and biomass yield were not affected by tillage treatments. Soil compaction was significantly affected by tillage as shown by data from the Palmerston North experiment. Soil aggregate stability in the 0-10 cm topsoil was similar under all the tillage treatments. Manual tillage (MT) had the greatest number of soil aggregates on sieve after a 30-minute wet-sieving (68.3%) followed by no-tillage (NT) (65.1), permanent pasture (PP) (62.6) and conventional tillage (CT) (56.5). Similarly, the top 0-10 cm soil under MT had significantly larger macroporosity (16.4%) than CT (9.23), NT (11.5), and PP (10.6). MT and CT significantly reduced the total C whereas N levels were significantly decreased by tillage (CT, MT and NT) compared to permanent pasture at the top 0-10 cm soil layer. Barley grain and biomass were unaffected by tillage whereas potato tuber yield and biomass were significantly less under no-tillage. Conventional tillage significantly increased water runoff but produced less leachate compared to no-till and permanent pasture. Total soil sediment loss was significantly lower under PP (95.8 kg/ha) and NT (132.9) compared to CT (3556.7) and MT (4652.2). pH of water runoff was significantly reduced under tillage treatments compared to that from permanent pasture whereas nitrogen losses were unaffected. There are at least four major public policy components that will play vital roles in the development of sustainable crop production technologies in East Timor: (i) Agricultural research and development (ii) Agricultural extension (iii) International and regional networking (iv) Shift of policy focus. The policy approach needs to be decentralized and broad-based and conservation agriculture should be promoted as opposed to conventional production agriculture. Three major areas for the future research agenda include: (i) Integrated Farming Systems (ii) Soil tillage and erosion (iii) Applied science and technology. The last component may cover disciplines such as: food policy analysis, farm machinery selection and testing, soil testing and mapping, land evaluation and GIs, bio-energy technologies, improved local seed varieties, adaptive fodder crops for improved grazing and pasture management, appropriate agro-forestry and soil and water conservation technologies and cash crop initiatives.