M.L. Jat, senior cropping system agronomist in the Global Conservation Agriculture Program at CIMMYT, in collaboration with Hirak Banerjee, Rupak Goswami, Somsubhra Chakraborty, Sudarshan Duttac, Kaushik Majumdar , T. Satyanarayana and Shamie Zingore, recently published a study examining the socio-economic determinants of yield gap in maize. The study, “Understanding biophysical and socio-economic determinants of maize (Zea mays L.) yield variability in eastern India” was published in the NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences and was made possible by a grant from the Maize CRP. The term “yield gap” refers to “the difference between actual yields and potential yield,” potential yield being “the maximum yield that can be achieved in a given agro-ecological zone.” The purpose of the study was to investigate the key factors limiting maize productivity in two districts in each of the Indian states of West Bengal, Malda and Bankura, in order to develop effective crop and nutrient management strategies to reduce yield gap in the region.
The study compared the maize yield and socio-economic situation of farmers in the region and found that factors such as the caste or ethnic origin of farmers, availability of family labor, land ownership, use of legumes in cropping sequence, irrigation constraints, type of seed used, optimal plant population, labor and capital investment and use of organic manure had strong correlations to the maize yields farmers were able to achieve. The authors of the study hope that this information can facilitate the development and introduction of appropriate typology-specific crop management practices, in accordance with the needs of farmers and the socio-economic factors affecting their productivity, which could help to increase maize yields and reduce the yield gap for the region’s farmers.