Effect of soil fertility management strategies and resource-endowment on spatial soil fertility gradients, plant nutrient uptake and maize growth at two smallholder areas, north-western Zimbabwe uri icon

abstract

  • We investigate the effects of smallholder farmer resource-endowment and soil nutrient management strategieson plant nutrient uptake and growth across soil fertility gradients under semi-arid conditions. Soil fertility gradientsas influenced by farmers? resource availability may affect the response of crops to fertilizer addition andtherefore productivity. The study was conducted in Njelele and Nemangwe smallholder areas (450-800 mm perannum, unimodal) in north-western Zimbabwe. Soil and maize cobleaf samples were collected from fields offarmers (varying resource endowment) located near to (homefields) and far away (outfields) from the farmers?homesteads during the 2005-6 season. The samples were analysed for selected soil fertility indicators and soilsamples were further used to test maize growth response to various nutrient applications under greenhouseconditions. Soil fertility (organic C, total N and available P) significantly (P<0.05) decreased from resourceendowedto resource-constrained farmers, and from outfields to homefields, but the latter differences were onlysignificant for available P. Besides resource-endowment and field type, response to nutrient applications alsodepended on soil texture. In sandy soil, both N and P were limiting to MAIZE growth in outfields while N wasmost limiting in the homefield. It was concluded that resource-endowment and nutrient resource managementstrategies employed by farmers result in soil fertility gradients which affect response of crops to fertilisation and therefore need to be factored in the development of fertiliser recommendations

publication date

  • 2011
  • 2011