However, these facts are yet to be proven under tropical conditions. This is what the Farming Systems Comparison (SysCom) was launched for. It aims to fill the present knowledge gap by evaluating the performance of different farming systems over a long term. Following six years of trial crops, the first results are now on hand.

The field trials

In the context of the study, in 2007, permanent field sites were established at two locations in the Central Highlands of Kenya with a sub-humid environment – Thika and Chuka. These field trials feature a 6-season-3-year crop rotation with maize and different vegetables and are set up in a way that both organic and conventional farming systems are comparable at high and low input levels, representing commercial scale irrigated and subsistence scale rain-fed farming respectively. In principle, the level of inputs in the low-input treatments reflects the availability of farm-owned resources as a determining factor, whereas in the case of the high-input treatments the crop requirements and profitability are the main driving factors, necessitating the use of market-purchased inputs (e.g.