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Identifying opportunities for innovation via management of pearl millet systems in Senegal

Nilson Vieira Junior is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Digital Geospatial Farming System Consortium (DGFSC), funded by The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL). He is working with crop modeling applied to intercropping and farming systems.

Pearl millet is the most cultivated cereal in Senegal and plays a critical role in food security for the livelihood of smallholder farmers and their communities. This is an essential crop because it can be used as human food and animal feed. "Our main objective is to evaluate the interactions between genotype, environment (weather), and management to optimize management and develop regional recommendations for pearl millet systems in Senegal," explained Nilson.

They are working on different kinds of management for the systems using crop modeling, regarding genotypes, fertilizer rates, planting dates, and plant populations for different regions.

Nilson has already calibrated the model, the APSIM, and they are analyzing the results. "We achieved satisfactory performance and simulated the phenology and pearl millet production within Senegal. So based on this calibration, we started to simulate and evaluate different scenarios, we expect to have some results soon," highlighted the researcher.

The team expects to find different behaviors from the simulations. In the north of the country, the cycle length is shorter, while in the south, it is longer. So, one result that they expect is different planting windows per region due to the difference in genotypes and rainy season.

Another possible scenario, Nilson pointed out, is the effect of nitrogen on the crop. Water is the main limiting factor for pearl millet in Senegal, and some regions present a longer rainy season than others. "If you have nutrients but don't have water, you can not achieve good production," explained Nilson.

After the team runs simulations, they define the management standards for each region. Based on that, they compare between regions, and finally, they organize the information and propose possible interventions to improve the farming system in Senegal.

Nilson concluded, "I consider the DGFSC a great initiative. I feel pleased being part of this because you can see how the research and the academics can be employed in the field. It is unique to be part of this because we can help smallholders to improve their farming systems, and make agriculture more efficient and sustainable".


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