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Identification of cover crops for the semi-arid savanna zone of West Africa
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Leguminous cover crops may be an appropriate component of sustainable food-production systems in the semi-arid savannas of West and Central Africa- A set of erect and spreading legumes was observed for adaptation D to a semi-arid climate (700-900 mm annual rain-fall), without fertilizer application, on three soil types in northern Cameroon. Mucuna pruriens generally reached l00% ground cover 60-90 d after planting, whereas Canavalia ensiformis rarely reached 100% ground cover, Two C. ensiformis accessions, one erect and one spreading, differed in their ability to cover the soil surface. Maximum foliage drymatter (DM) exceeded that of the locally adapted spreading cowpea in most cases. Foliage DM of M. pruriens, C. ensiformis, Clotalaria ochroleuca, and Cajanus cajan generally exceeded 4 t ha-' at all but the most degraded site. At the degraded site, the erect C. ensiformis accession produced 5-7 t DM htt. Canavalia ensiformis grow longer into the dry season and maintained higher moisture content, suggesting some drought resistance Because of strong winds during the dry season and trampling during seed collection, foliage DM less than about 4 t ha I did not persist through the dry season. Uncontrolled cattle grazing was another threat to persistence of mulch though the dry season.