Impacts of heterogeneity in soil fertility on legume-finger millet productivity, farmers ' targeting and economic benefits

P. Ebanyat, N. de Ridder, A. de Jager, R.J. Delve, M. Bekunda, K.E. Giller

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Targeting of integrated management practices for smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is necessary due to the great heterogeneity in soil fertility. Experiments were conducted to evaluate the impacts of landscape position and field type on the biomass yield, N accumulation and N2-fixation by six legumes (cowpea, green gram, groundnut, mucuna, pigeonpea and soyabean) established with and without P during the short rain season of 2005. Residual effects of the legumes on the productivity of finger millet were assessed for two subsequent seasons in 2006 in two villages in Pallisa district, eastern Uganda. Legume biomass and N accumulation differed significantly (P <0.001) between villages, landscape position, field type and P application rate. Mucuna accumulated the most biomass (4.8–10.9 Mg ha-1) and groundnut the least (1.0–3.4 Mg ha-1) on both good and poor fields in the upper and middle landscape positions. N accumulation and amounts of N2-fixed by the legumes followed a similar trend as biomass, and was increased significantly by application of P. Grain yields of finger millet were significantly (P <0.001) higher in the first season after incorporation of legume biomass than in the second season after incorporation. Finger millet also produced significantly more grain in good fields (0.62–2.15 Mg ha-1) compared with poor fields (0.29–1.49 Mg ha-1) across the two villages. Participatory evaluation of options showed that farmers preferred growing groundnut and were not interested in growing pigeonpea and mucuna. They preferentially targeted grain legumes to good fields except for mucuna and pigeonpea which they said they would grow only in poor fields. Benefit-cost ratios indicated that legume-millet rotations without P application were only profitable on good fields in both villages. We suggest that green gram, cowpea and soyabean without P can be targeted to good fields on both upper and middle landscape positions in both villages. All legumes grown with P fertiliser on poor fields provided larger benefits than continuous cropping of millet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-231
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • smallholder farms
  • western kenya
  • use efficiency
  • maize
  • management
  • gradients
  • savanna
  • biomass
  • crop
  • technologies

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