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Maize yield response to Mucuna pruriens and Pueraria phaseoloides cover crop fallow and biomass burning versus mulching in farmer managed onfarm experiments
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Maize was relay cropped with the cover crops Mucuna pruriens or Pueraria phaseoloides for between 1 and 7 consecutive years in three sites, Ngoungoumou, located in an area of low land use intensity (LUI), about 100 km away from the next major market, and at Evendissi and Andok, in a medium LUI area, 15 to 20 km away from the next major market. Maize yield was compared with that in natural fallow, with fallow biomass burned versus retained as mulch. Fallow type had no effect on maize density. Biomass burning increased maize density in the low LUI site but had no effect in the other sites. Maize cob production was neither affected by fallow type nor by biomass management. Across 7 crop years, marketable cob production in the low LUI site was 38.5% higher in mucuna fallow than in natural fallow (p<0.06); differences at p<0.05 were found in 1 out of 7 years. In the medium LUI sites, mucuna and pueraria fallow increased marketable cob production by 70 132% (p<0.001). Maize grain yield was closely related to the marketable cob production in all sites. In the low LUI site the cumulative maize grain yield over 7 years was 30% higher in mucuna fallow than in natural fallow (p<0.07). As for the marketable cobs this difference was only in 1 year significant at p<0.05. In the other two sites maize grain yield was 65% higher in mucuna fallow (p<0.001) and 69-94% higher in pueraria fallow (p<0.001). Burning biomass had a cumulative grain yield advantage of 33% at the low LUI site (p< 0.053), with significant (p<0.02) differences in 2 out of 7 years. Biomass burning had no effects on maize grain yield in the medium LUI sites. No interactions between fallow type and biomass management were found.