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Evaluation of raising geese in cornfields based on emergy analysis: A case study in southeastern Tibet, China

Sha, Zhipeng, Guan, Fachun, Wang, Junfeng, Zhang, Yuyang, Liu, Heman, Wang, Chao
Ecological engineering 2015 v.84 pp. 485-491
Zea mays, agricultural land, case studies, corn, crops, ecosystem engineering, emergy, geese, income, insects, leaves, pastoralism, planting, product safety, rural areas, tillage, weeds, China
Global agriculture faces a daunting challenge of feeding the increasing world population using the finite environmental resources. An efficient pathway is to integrate the agricultural and pastoral systems in rural regions. This study investigated the hypothesis of raising geese in cornfields (RGICF), which is an ecological engineering approach based on the principle of agro-pastoral integration, and whether this production pattern should be widely applied in southeastern Tibet, China. The core idea is to utilize available resources, such as weeds, the bottom leaves of crop plants, and insects in tillage systems to raise poultry. In this study, an emergy analysis method was used to better understand the performance, input-output status, and resource-use efficiency of RGICF compared to the conventional corn planting (CCP) production pattern that was used as a control. The results showed that, compared to CCP, RGICF had a lower emergy yield ratio by 0.62, lower systematic self-organization ability by 0.07, lower environmental loading ratio by 0.51, 1.32 times higher emergy sustainable index, and 2.14 times higher emergy index of product safety. The economic benefit of RGICF was higher than that of CCP, since the gross income and the net income of RGICF were 3.11 and 2.43 times higher than those of CCP, respectively. Overall, the results showed that RGICF led to greater economic benefits and had higher sustainability, lower environmental pressure, and higher product safety compared to CCP in the studied region. Therefore, RGICF has significant ecological–economic advantages compared to CCP, and its application is highly recommended for the area of southeastern Tibet.