1991). In Syria, farmers managed to double wheat yields through the use of modern technologies, including irrigation, high-yielding varieties this website and fertilisers in 10 years since 1980 (Tutwiler et al.
1997). Meanwhile, the productivity of rain-fed wheat-based systems has remained low. Rain-fed wheat produced in the Syrian governorates Homs, Hama, Ghab, Idleb and Aleppo (1988–1997) yielded, on average, 1.1 t/ha compared to 2.9 t/ha when irrigation was applied (Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform 1999). Growth conditions are often characterised by low WUE due to suboptimal agronomic practices, including insufficient weed control and non-aligned nutrient management (Pala et al. 2007; Passioura and Angus 2010). The application of fertiliser is often perceived as too risky because of high rainfall variability (Pala and Rodríguez 1993; Pala et al. 1999). Developing the rain-fed systems would not only contribute to food security but may also reduce the pressure on over-exploited groundwater resources (Varela-Ortega and mTOR inhibitor Sagardoy 2002). Rationale for an alternative tillage/residue management Conservation agricultural practices, including residue retention and no-tillage sowing, have been successfully adopted in other
semi-arid regions such as Australia, where they have become a key component of cereal-based systems (Thomas et al. 2007). As part of the sustainability assessment strategy, we reviewed such practices as possible alternatives
to the conventional soil and residue management practised in MENA. In semi-arid environments of the Mediterranean region, wheat and barley yields increased with no-tillage compared to conventional tillage under relatively drier conditions as determined by site and/or season (Lampurlanés et al. 2002; Cantero-Martínez et al. 2003; De Vita et Astemizole al. 2007). Benefits of conservation agriculture include more efficient crop water use and increased yields through improved soil water infiltration and storage (Bescansa et al. 2006; Verhulst et al. 2011), reduced evaporative losses with residue retention, enhanced soil fertility through higher levels of soil organic matter (Mrabet et al. 2001; Roldan et al. 2007), improved timeliness of sowing and reduced fuel consumption through the use of direct seeding (Knowler and Bradshaw 2007). However, farmers also require the system-specific management skills to overcome pitfalls, including increased susceptibility to stubble-borne diseases (Fernandez et al. 2008), AZD1480 mw reliance on herbicides for weed control and the risk of herbicide-resistant weed populations (D’Emden and Llewellyn 2006), risk of reduced crop N availability (Angás et al. 2006) and a trade-off between crop residue retention and the need for animal feed (Tutwiler et al. 1997).