Raising the productivity of smallholder farms under semi-arid conditions by use of small doses of manure and nitrogen: a case of participatory research

B. Ncube, J.P. Dimes, S.J. Twomlow, W. Mupangwa, K.E. Giller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Participatory on-form trials were conducted for three seasons to assess the benefits of small rates of manure and nitrogen fertilizer on maize grain yield in semi-arid Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe. Two farmer resource groups conducted trials based on available amounts of manure, 3 t ha(-1) (low resource group) and 6 t ha(-1) ( high resource group). Maize yields varied between 0.15 t ha(-1) and 4.28 t ha(-1) and both absolute yields and response to manure were strongly related to rainfall received across seasons (P <0.001). The first two seasons were dry while the third season received above average rainfall. Maize yields within the seasons were strongly related to N applied (R-2 = 0.77 in season 1, and R-2 = 0.88 and 0.83 in season 3) and other beneficial effects of manure, possibly availability of cations and P. In the 2001 - 2002 season (total rainfall 478 mm), application of 3 and 6 t ha(-1) of manure in combination with N fertilizer increased grain yield by about 0.14 and 0.18 t ha(-1), respectively. The trend was similar for the high resource group in 2002 - 2003 although the season was very dry ( 334 mm). In 2003 - 2004, with good rainfall ( 672 mm), grain yields were high even for the control plots (average 1.2 and 2.7 t ha(-1)). Maize yields due to manure applications at 3 and 6 t ha(-1) were 1.96 and 3.44 t ha(-1), respectively. Application of 8.5 kg N ha(-1) increased yields to 2.5 t ha(-1) with 3 t ha(-1) of manure, and to 4.28 t ha(-1) with 6 t ha(-1) of manure. In this area farmers do not traditionally use either manure or fertilizer on their crops, but they actively participated in this research during three consecutive seasons and were positive about using the outcomes of the research in future. The results showed that there is potential to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers through the use of small rates of manure and N under semi-arid conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-67
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Volume77
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • soil fertility management
  • africa
  • dynamics
  • systems

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