In the African context, BNF must primarily contribute to the food security of rural communities and secondarily to environmental quality through reduced N inputs to the ecosystem and C sequestration in legume biomass. The conceptual framework for soybean BNF contributions to an integrated crop-livestock system is illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Conceptual framework for soybean BNF contribution to food security in a smallholder maize-based farming system. Soybean BNF generates biomass (grain, crop residues).
Each pathway presents opportunities and challenges for research and extension; constraints must be removed or reduced (research) and the benefits clearly demonstrated to the clients (promotion), the farmers. The conceptual model for the research agenda is shown in Figure 2 and identifies the research areas that were considered key to ensure that the products of soybean BNF could be translated into quantifiable benefits for adopting communities. Appropriate cultivars (genetics/breeding), compatible effective rhizobia (rhizobium ecology, inoculant technology), crop management (agronomy) and pest and disease control all contribute to higher yields which in turn directly boost food security through consumption of produce, processing and value addition and marketing to generate income.
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