Fertility management and landscape position: farmers' use of nutrient sources in western Niger and possible improvements uri icon

abstract

  • Poor millet growth and yields in Niger are commonly attributed to rainfall deficits and low soil nutrient content. Land management by local farmers is done as a function of soil types, crops, and available resources. Farmer management practices in millet fields located on four different landscape positions were studied in a village in western Niger located near the 600 mm isohyet. Average distance from homestead to field was 980 m, with fields in the valley bottom much closer ( average 225 m) and fields on the plateau much further ( average 2300 m). Farmers considered the valley and plateau fields slightly more fertile than the other fields, but rainfall infiltration on plateau fields is often relatively poor. Nitrogen and phosphorus contents in the soil were highest on the less intensively cropped plateaus. More than 50% of the fields did not receive any applied nutrients other than during livestock grazing of leftover stover. Manure application was done through corralling in only four of the fields studied (20%), out of which three were farmed by Fulani using their own herds for manuring. There was no significant effect of landscape unit on yield, though yields in the valley and on the upper slope were slightly higher than average. Millet grain yields, soil carbon and soil phosphorus decreased significantly with distance from the living quarters. This may be because manuring usually takes place close to home ( average distance in 1997 <200 m). Manure application increased millet grain production from 126 kg ha(-1) to 316 kg ha(-1) in 1997. Manuring yielded more than 1000 kg ha(-1) in 1996, when rainfall was much more favourable. Fallowed fields yielded an average 143 kg ha(-1) of millet grain in 1997, with fallow taking place an average of 1640 m from the homestead. Another soil fertility management practice included use of millet threshing residues in fields adjacent to the village. There was no chemical fertilizer application. Any improvement to the system will require the solution of existing constraints limiting the integration of livestock and crops and/or limiting the input of external sources of nutrients in Niger. These limitations can include lack of land to allow fallowing practices and/or grazing; local non-availability of mineral fertiliser; lack of capital to buy fertiliser, due in part to low millet prices; lack of means of transport for inputs; but also lack of means for pest control and lack of labour for sowing, weeding and thinning. Initial improvements may be made by making more efficient use of the available manure, through much lighter and slightly more frequent manuring of much larger areas.
  • Poor millet growth and yields in Niger are commonly attributed to rainfall deficits and low soil nutrient content. Land management by local farmers is done as a function of soil types, crops, and available resources. Farmer management practices in millet fields located on four different landscape positions were studied in a village in western Niger located near the 600 mm isohyet. Average distance from homestead to field was 980 m, with fields in the valley bottom much closer (average 225 m) and fields on the plateau much further (average 2300 m). Farmers considered the valley and plateau fields slightly more fertile than the other fields, but rainfall infiltration on plateau fields is often relatively poor. Nitrogen and phosphorus contents in the soil were highest on the less intensively cropped plateaus. More than 50% of the fields did not receive any applied nutrients other than during livestock grazing of leftover stover. Manure application was done through corralling in only four of the fields studied (20%), out of which three were farmed by Fulani using their own herds for manuring. There was no significant effect of landscape unit on yield, though yields in the valley and on the upper slope were slightly higher than average. Millet grain yields, soil carbon and soil phosphorus decreased significantly with distance from the living quarters. This may be because manuring usually takes place close to home (average distance in 1997 <200 m). Manure application increased millet grain production from 126 kg ha?1 to 316 kg ha?1 in 1997. Manuring yielded more than 1000 kg ha?1 in 1996, when rainfall was much more favourable. Fallowed fields yielded an average 143 kg ha?1 of millet grain in 1997, with fallow taking place an average of 1640 m from the homestead. Another soil fertility management practice included use of millet threshing residues in fields adjacent to the village. There was no chemical fertilizer application. Any improvement to the system will require the solution of existing constraints limiting the integration of livestock and crops and/or limiting the input of external sources of nutrients in Niger. These limitations can include lack of land to allow fallowing practices and/or grazing; local non-availability of mineral fertiliser; lack of capital to buy fertiliser, due in part to low millet prices; lack of means of transport for inputs; but also lack of means for pest control and lack of labour for sowing, weeding and thinning. Initial improvements may be made by making more efficient use of the available manure, through much lighter and slightly more frequent manuring of much larger areas

publication date

  • 2003
  • 2003
  • 2003