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Interseeding timing of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) living mulch on weed diversity, physical soil properties and performance of maize (Zea mays L.)
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This trial was conducted to determine cowpea living mulch and maize maturity type effect on soil physical properties, maize yield and weed management. The study was a 3 x 4 factorial experiment laid out in Randomised Complete Block Design with 3 replications. Three maize maturity types: extra early Abontem, early Omankwa and medium Obatanpa and four living mulch systems: cowpea living mulch interseeded same day with maize (SDWM), cowpea living mulch interseeded 1 Week after planting maize (WAPM), cowpea living mulch interseeded 2 WAPM and sole maize (control) were used as treatments. The maize was planted at a spacing of 75 x 40 cm and interseeded with cowpea living mulch planted in between maize rows at an intra-spacing of 20 cm, resulting in a 1:1 row arrangement. Data was collected on soil physical properties, maize growth, yield and yield components, weed biomass and diversity. Planting cowpea as mulch in maize reduced (p < 0.05) soil temperature and increased (p < 0.05) soil moisture content than the control at vegetative, tasselling and harvest growth stage of the maize. Maize plant height at harvest, leaf area index of maize at 6 WAPM and days to 50% tasselling were significantly affected by cowpea living mulch and maize maturity type interaction. Cowpea living mulch significantly increased maize grain yield, with cowpea living mulch at 1 WAPM recording the highest grain yield of 2285.9 kg/ha. Cowpea living mulch significantly reduced weed biomass at 6, 9 and 12 WAP. Maize maturity type affected (p < 0.05) parameters such as plant height, leaf area index, 50% tasselling and silking, stover yield and harvest index. Cowpea interseeded SDWM and 1 WAPM best improved soil physical properties, maize yield and reduced weed diversity and biomass. Therefore, for enhanced maize yield and optimum weed control, farmers with enough labour can inter-seed maize with cowpea live mulch on the same day (SDWM). Alternatively, those face with labour scarcity could adopt maize with cowpea interseeded at 1 WAPM.