Yield and water use efficiencies of maize and cowpea as affected by tillage and cropping systems in semi-arid Eastern Kenya

Mwangi DM, Miriti JM, Heng LK, Esilaba AO, Gachene CKK. "Yield and water use efficiencies of maize and cowpea as affected by tillage and cropping systems in semi-arid Eastern Kenya.". 2012.


Soil water conservation through tillage is widely accepted as one of the ways of improving crop yields in rainfed agriculture. Field experiments were conducted between 2007 and 2009 to evaluate the effects of conservation tillage on the yields and crop water use efficiency of maize (Zea mays L.) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) in eastern Kenya. Experimental treatments were a combination of three tillage practices and four cropping systems. Tillage practices were tied-ridges, subsoiling-ripping and ox-ploughing. The cropping systems were single crop maize, single crop cowpea, intercropped maize–cowpea and single crop maize with manure. The treatments were arranged in split plots with tillage practices as the main plots and cropping systems as the sub-plots in a Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD). The results showed that tied-ridge tillage had the greatest plant available water content while subsoiling-ripping tillage had the least in all seasons. Averaged across seasons and cropping season, tillage did not have a significant effects on maize grain yield but it did have a significant effect on crop grain and dry matter water use efficiency (WUE). Nevertheless, maize grain yields and WUE values were generally greater under tied-ridge tillage than under subsoiling-ripping and ox-plough tillages. The yields and WUE of cowpea under subsoiling-ripping tillage were less than those of ox-plough tillage. When averaged across the seasons and tillage systems, the cropping system with the manure treatment increased (P ≤ 0.05) maize grain yield, grain WUE and dry matter WUE by 36%, 30%, 26% respectively, compared to treatments without manure. Maize and cowpea when intercropped under ox-plough and ripping tillage systems did not have any yield advantage over the single crop.Highlights ► We studied crop yield and water use efficiencies of maize and cowpea under different tillage practices in semi-arid Kenya. ► Plant available water was highest in tied ridges, followed by ox-ploughing and least in the ripping tillage system. ► Tillage did not have significant effects on maize grain yield and but it had on crop water use efficiency. ► Cowpea yielded less under ripping than ox-ploughing. ► Maize yield was reduced by intercropping but was improved by manure application.


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