Conservation Agriculture for Maize and Bean Production in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia
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Conservation agriculture (CA) can be a means to soil improvement and increased crop productivity but had not been evaluated for maize (Zea mays L.)-dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) cropping systems in the semiarid Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia (CRV). Th erefore, on-farm (2011-2014) and on-station (2010-2014) trials were conducted to compare CA with the current smallholder conventional practice (CP) for productivity of maize-bean cropping systems. Maize monoculture (MMC), bean monoculture (BMC), maize-bean rotation (MBR), and maize-bean intercropping (MBI) were compared with and without tillage on-station. In on-farm research, MMC under CP (CP_MMC) was compared with cropping systems under CA including MMC (CA_MMC), MBR (CA_MBR), and MBI (CA_MBI). On-station, CA had late tasseling, silking, and physiological maturity compared to CP. CA_MBR and CA_MBI had 28 and 19% more maize grain yield and 29 and 17% more stover yield compared with CA_MMC, respectively. Bean straw yield and intercrop bean grain yield were 13 and 7% more, respectively, with CA compared with CP. However, in the on-farm trials, maize grain and stover yield were 23 and 47% less with CA_MBR compared to CA_MMC, possibly due to observed soil crusting and compaction of the sandy clay soil with CA. Soil water at 0-to 30- and 0-to 100-cm depths were 38 and 28%, respectively, more with MBR compared to MMC at the maize grain-fill stage. Stored soil water was 21% more with CA compared with CP. We conclude that CA_MBR and CA_MBI are suitable for fine texture soil of the CRV.
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