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Improving crop productivity and agro-environmental sustainability on fragile slopes in the highlands of South China and ThailandThe effectiveness of soil conservation treatments developed in research plots on controlled slopes is being investigated in farmer-managed plots in a natural catchment. This is being achieved by the development and scientific evaluation of modified and novel cropping practices in a representative highland catchment in Yunnan Province, China. The selected catchment, Wang Jia (25° 28'N, 102° 53'E) covers 57.2 hectares near Kedu, in Xundian County, north-east Yunnan. The initial project consists of an evaluation of the effects of modified cropping practices on corn productivity and soil properties. This programme has now been extended to investigate ways of increasing the productivity of corn, wheat and soyabean on fragile slopes in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. The approach incorporates modified and novel agronomic and soil conservation measures, to evaluate the agricultural, environmental and socio-economic impacts of these measures using multi-disciplinary approaches. This European Union funded project involves a collaborative research team from Belgium, China, Ireland, Thailand and the U.K. Evaluated effects include physical, chemical and ecological impacts, the conservation of natural resources, management of wastes, returns for stakeholders, poverty alleviation, income augmentation and rural development. This holistic approach has not been attempted previously in the region. The catchment is being used as an experimental area and training model for sustainable agricultural development in the South China highlands. A parallel study, restricted to scientific evaluation of agronomic and physicochemical impacts, is being carried out in a pilot study at Pangmapa, in the highlands of north Thailand, testing the broader applicability of the cropping practices being developed for South-East Asia. Five co-ordinated work packages are being implemented: (1) Background agricultural and environmental assessment of Wang Jia Catchment. (2) Implementation and evaluation of modified and novel cropping systems for wheat, corn and soybean in the catchment. (3) Evaluation of the socio-economic impact of the changed cropping practices. (4) Comparative scientific evaluation of the cropping techniques in the highlands of northern Thailand. (5) Dissemination of project outcomes and establishment of training programmes for best practice in highland rural development. This project aims to infoem the international research community, regional training agencies, local agricultural and conservation services and village communities.