Reduced tillage, mulching and rotational effects on maize (Zea mays L.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (Walp) L.) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. (Moench)) yields under semi-arid conditions

SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION

AVAILABLE FROM
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

AUTHORS

W. Mupangwa, S. Twomlow, S. Walker

SUMMARY

Proponents of conservation agriculture (CA) argue that the CA approach offers the greatest opportunity to increase the productivity in smallholder agro-ecosystems. This study was designed to assess (1) first year maize, cowpea and sorghum yield responses to a combination of reduced tillage and mulching and (2) maize yield responses to rotation with cowpea and sorghum in reduced tillage systems. Two conservation tillage methods (ripping and planting basins) combined factorially with seven mulch levels (0, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8 and 10 t ha?1) were compared with conventional mouldboard ploughing. The experiment was run for four consecutive growing seasons allowing for a rotation of maize, cowpea, sorghum and maize in some fields used in the study. Crop yields were determined across all tillage and mulch combinations in each year.Tillage system had no significant effect on maize yield while maize grain yield increased with increase in mulch cover in seasons that had below average rainfall. Mulching at 2?4 t ha?1 gave optimum yields in seasons with below average rainfall. Tillage system and mulching had no significant effect on cowpea yield when soil moisture was not limiting. However, the ripper and basin systems had 142 and 102% more cowpea grain than the conventional system in 2006/2007 because of differences in planting dates used in three systems and poor rainfall distribution. The conventional and ripper systems gave 26 and 38% more sorghum grain than the basin system. Rotating maize with cowpea and sorghum resulted in 114, 123 and 9% more grain than first year maize, maize?maize monocrop and maize?cowpea?maize in the conventional system. In the ripper system, maize?cowpea?sorghum?maize rotation gave 98, 153 and 39% more grain than first year maize, maize?maize monocrop and maize?cowpea?maize rotation. In the basin system, maize?cowpea?sorghum?maize rotation gave 274, 240 and 43% more grain than first year maize, maize?maize monocrop and maize?cowpea?maize rotation. However, long term studies under different soil, climatic and socio-economic conditions still need to be conducted to substantiate the observations made in the reported study

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