Leguminous cover crops differentially affect maize yields in three contrasting soil types of Kakamega, Western Kenya

Ajebesone Francis E. Ngome, Mathias Becker, Kelvin Mark Mtei


Maize production in smallholder farming systems in Kenya is largely limited by low soil fertility. As mineral fertilizer is expensive, green manuring using leguminous cover crops could be an alternative strategy for farmers to enhance farm productivity. However due to variability in soil type and crop management, the effects of green manure are likely to differ with farms. The objectives of this study were to evaluate Mucuna pruriens and Arachis pintoi on (i) biomass and nitrogen fixation (15N natural abundance), (ii) soil carbon and nitrogen stocks and (iii) their effects on maize yields over two cropping seasons in Kakamega, Western Kenya. Mucuna at 6 weeks accumulated 1–1.3 Mg ha^{-1} of dry matter and 33–56 kg ha^{-1} nitrogen of which 70% was nitrogen derived from the atmosphere (Ndfa). Arachis after 12 months accumulated 2–2.7 Mg ha^{-1} of dry matter and 51–74 kg N ha^{-1} of which 52-63 % was from Ndfa. Soil carbon and nitrogen stocks at 0–15 cm depth were enhanced by 2-4 Mg C ha^{-1} and 0.3–1.0 Mg N ha^{-1} under Mucuna and Arachis fallow, irrespective of soil type. Maize yield increased by 0.5-2 Mg ha^{-1} in Mucuna and 0.5–3 Mg ha^{-1} in Arachis and the response was stronger on Nitisol than on Acrisol or Ferralsol. We concluded that leguminous cover crops seem promising in enhancing soil fertility and maize yields in Kenya, provided soil conditions and rainfall are suitable.


Arachis pintoi; green manure; Mucuna pruriens; nitrogen fixation; Zea mays

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URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:hebis:34-2011101139312

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