Effect of minimum tillage and mulching on maize (Zea mays L.) yield and water content of clayey and sandy soils uri icon

abstract

  • Rainfed smallholder agriculture in semi-arid areas of southern Africa is subject to numerous constraints. These include low rainfall with high spatial and temporal variability, and significant loss of soil water through evaporation. An experiment was established at Matopos Research Station, Zimbabwe, to determine the effect of mulching and minimum tillage on maize (Zea mays L.) yield and soil water content. The experiment was run for two years at two sites: clay (Matopos Research Station fields) and sand (Lucydale fields) soils, in a 7 × 3 factorial combination of mulch rates (0, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8 and 10 t ha?1) and tillage methods (planting basins, ripper tine and conventional plough). Each treatment was replicated three times at each site in a split plot design. Maize residue was applied as mulch before tillage operations. Two maize varieties, a hybrid (SC 403) and an open pollinated variety (ZM 421), were planted. Maize yield and soil water content (0?30 and 30?60 cm depth) were measured under each treatment. On both soil types, neither mulching nor tillage method had a significant effect on maize grain yield. Tillage methods significantly influenced stover production with planting basins giving the highest stover yield (1.1 t ha?1) on sandy soil and conventional ploughing giving 3.6 t ha?1 on clay soil during the first season. The three tillage methods had no significant effect on seasonal soil water content, although planting basins collected more rainwater during the first half of the cropping period. Mulching improved soil water content in both soil types with maximum benefits observed at 4 t ha?1 of mulch. We conclude that, in the short term, minimum tillage on its own, or in combination with mulching, performs as well as the farmers? traditional practices of overall ploughing

publication date

  • 2007
  • 2007