Crop rotation with legumes [Chile]

Rotación de cultivos con leguminosas (Spanish)

technologies_1123 - Chile

Completeness: 76%

1. معلومات عامة

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Soledad Espinoza

Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) (Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA)) - Chile

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) of legumes as a source of N in crop rotations with cereals in Mediterranean Chile

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


In the past, legumes were commonly used as a biological and economic source of N for farming systems. Nowadays, N-fixing legumes have been recovering as viable crops because of the increased cost of N fertilizer and the need to develop more sustainable farming systems.

Purpose of the Technology: These systems combine phases of legumes of different duration, in which N is fixed and accumulates in the soil, followed by phases of cereal growing during which accumulated N is extracted

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: In this new rotation for rainfed agricultural systems in Central Chile, four legume-wheat rotations were compared to a monoculture crop rotation (wheat followed by oat). The legume species are: the narrow-leaf lupin (Lupinus angustifolium); Wonga (early-flowering and high-yielding narrow-leafed lupin variety), yellow lupin (Lupinus luteus); Motiv, Peas (Pisum sativum); Rocket and a fodder mixture of vetch (Vicia atropurpurea) with oats. Legume seeds were inoculated with a specific Rhizobium. In the year following the legume crop, wheat was seeded without N fertilisation on the incorporated residues of grain legumes and green manure (vetch with oats). The BNF in the grain legumes varies from 124 to 178 kg N ha-1, depending on the type of legume. Peas are the most efficient fixing legume crop. In the lupins - wheat (L. angustifolius) rotation without application of N to the wheat after lupins, production of wheat was between 79 and 110% of that when fertilised with N. In the peas - wheat rotation, a yield equivalent to 72 and 105% of the wheat fully fertilised with N was obtained. While peas (Pisum sativum) can be eaten as a green vegetable, lupins and Vicia are used as fodder supplements for animals.

Natural / human environment: The new rotations were developed and evaluated experimentally. Then, through a technology transfer programme, the technology was transferred to real conditions with farmers in a programme covering 250 ha in the municipality of Yumbel.

The area has a subhumid Mediterranean climate with an average annual precipitation of 695 mm (80% concentrated in winter), with five months of drought. Soils are Alfisols of the Cauquenes type, classified as Ultic Palexeralfs. The soil is formed from weathered granite with moderately acidic conditions and low organic carbon. Clay content in the soil is 15% at depths of 0-18 cm depth. Below this depth, it is above 44%. The topography comprises a hillslope with a gradient of 10-20 % and the main traditional crop rotation is oat-wheat or wheat-natural pasture. The farmers are smallholders working on their own land. The sizes of the holdings on the dryland soils vary from 5 to 20 ha.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Cauquenes and Bíobio

Further specification of location:

Secano interior, Mediterranean Chile

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):



Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 250 km2

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • conserve ecosystem

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

الأراضي الزراعية

الأراضي الزراعية

  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - oats
  • legumes and pulses - other
  • legumes and pulses - peas
  • vegetables - leafy vegetables (salads, cabbage, spinach, other)
  • wheat

Longest growing period in days: 180; Longest growing period from month to month: Mar - Nov

Is crop rotation practiced?



The legume species are: the narrow-leaf lupin (Lupinus angustifolium); Wonga (early-flowering and high-yielding narrow-leafed lupin variety), yellow lupin (Lupinus luteus); Motiv, Peas (Pisum sativum); Rocket and a fodder mixture of vetch (Vicia atropurpurea) with oats

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): In rainfed areas of the Mediterranean region of Chile, bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is mainly produced in rotation with oats (Avena sativa) and therefore N is obtained from the soil and synthetic N fertilizers applied during sowing and ploughing. These intensive crop rotations have resulted in deterioration of the physical properties and a depletion of soil fertility as a result of the drastic reduction in organic matter content of these soils.

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • rotational systems (crop rotation, fallows, shifting cultivation)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)

Main type of degradation addressed: Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content

Main causes of degradation: soil management, change in temperature, change of seasonal rainfall, Heavy / extreme rainfall (intensity/amounts), education, access to knowledge and support services

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Lupins forming part of the crop sequence (Lupinus angustifolium)

Technical knowledge required for land users: high

Main technical functions: increase in organic matter, increase in nutrient availability (supply, recycling,…), promotion of new crops and varieties

Secondary technical functions: improvement of ground cover


Soledad Espinoza

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • USD

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Seeding legumes
2. Application of fertilizer
3. Harvesting with special machinery

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Seed, fertilize and harvest ha 1,0 146,0 146,0 100,0
Equipment Rent seeder machine+harvesting ha 1,0 293,0 293,0 60,0
Plant material Seeds ha 1,0 306,0 306,0 80,0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 745,0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 745,0

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

There are not establishment inputs and costs because in annual crops all the cost are recurrent

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: temperate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Slopes on average: Also hilly

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is very low

Soil drainage / infiltration is poor

Soil water storage capacity is very low

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
Off-farm income:
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Population density: 10-50 persons/km2

Annual population growth: < 0.5%

80% of the land users are poor and own 60% of the land.

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • individual

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production


fodder production


fodder quality


risk of production failure


product diversity

Income and costs

farm income


diversity of income sources




Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


health situation


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


livelihood and human well-being


Ecological impacts


soil cover


soil loss


soil crusting/ sealing


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C

Other ecological impacts

hazard towards adverse events


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability


surface runoff


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well

This technology should be complemented with no tillage and subsoiling of the soil (see QT CHL01).

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


6.5 Adoption of the Technology


Comments on acceptance with external material support: This is a new approach to the cereal production system in rainfed areas. Initially the adoption has been slow, as the results obtained in the project are recent.

Comments on adoption trend: . Hence it is expected that in the future the adoption of this technology increases up to 20,000 ha in the “secano interior” of south-central Chile

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Reduces the costs of fertiliser: the incorporation of legumes in the rotation cycle means a saving of 30% of nitrogen fertilizer in cereal production costs

How can they be sustained / enhanced? keep the phases of legumes sufficiently frequent and long
Increases the economic benefits. When analysing the whole farming system, replacing the traditional rotation of wheat followed by natural pasture, implies two economic benefits for the producer: increasing the income by the incorporation of a new crop (legumes) and the reduction of costs in the fertilization of cereals.
Increase soil organic matter: the new rotation system means a new concept in the management of crop residues. These should be incorporated into the soil, which in the medium and long term will involve an increase in the soil organic matter content

How can they be sustained / enhanced? ensure application of the new management of crop residues
The new rotation system involves an increase in productivity of the land, as it incorporates new cultures and improves the physical and chemical conditions of the soils.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Necessity of more training for the farmers improve / enhance agricultural extension

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Espinoza, S., Ovalle, C., del Pozo, A., Zagal, E., Urquiaga, S. 2011. Biological Fixation of N2 in mono and polyspecific legume pasture in the humid Mediterranean zone of Chile. Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research. 71(1):132-139.

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