Crop yield potential with conservation agriculture (CA) in rainfed systems is often greater than with conventional tillage (CVT) systems, particularly where sub-optimal rainfall limits yield. However, the full potential is rarely achieved because of various biotic and abiotic constraints. Analysis of 25 experiments found a slight increase in CA crop yields over time relative to CVT, indicating that CA can compete with CVT on a purely crop production basis and also has well-established environmental benefits. Evolved weed resistance to herbicides remains one of the greatest challenges to CA yields and long-term sustainability, yet there are some successful management stories. Worldwide adoption of CA is increasing; however, uptake in some regions is slow or non-existent. A lack of information on the effects and interactions of minimal soil disturbance, permanent residue cover, planned crop rotations and integrated weed management, which are key CA components, can hinder its adoption. This is because these interactions can have positive and negative effects depending on regional conditions. The positive impacts should be exploited through systems research to enhance CA crop yields. A greater focus on the influence of residue and weed management components as well as breeding for varieties adapted to biotic and abiotic stresses often associated with CA is required.
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