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Forage legumes exhibit a differential potential to compete against maize and weeds and to restore soil fertility in a maize-forage legume intercrop

Marilyn Kutamahufa, Lincon Matare, Gabriel Soropa, , Ezekia Svotwa, Arnold B. Mashingaidze

Abstract: Integrating forage legumes with maize has the potential to restore soil fertility and increase grain yield among smallholder farming systems. A study was conducted over two cropping seasons to determine the effect of intercropping maize with forage legumes on soil fertility restoration, weed biomass and maize yield. Treatments involved: four cropping systems (sole maize, maize-velvet bean, maize-silverleaf, maize-cowpeas) and four fertiliser regimes (no fertiliser, 150 kg ha−1 of compound D fertiliser (7% N: 14% P2O5: 7% K2O) + 150 kg ha−1 ammonium nitrate (34.5% N), 100 kg ha−1 single super phosphate (SSP, 17.5% P2O5) and 200 kg ha−1 SSP). Maize-velvet bean intercropping reduced weed biomass by 80% relative to sole maize and maize-silverleaf intercropping. Maize-cowpea and maize-velvet bean intercropping reduced maize grain yield by 25.9% and 64.7%, respectively, compared to sole maize and maize-silverleaf intercropping. In 2017/2018, maize-silverleaf intercropping increased resin-extractable P2O5 by 60.1% compared to other cropping systems while the three fertiliser treatments increased the levels of this nutrient by 41.9–100%. The results of this study show that intercropping maize with silverleaf has the potential to restore soil fertility and control weeds, without reducing maize grain yield.
Keywords: Intercropping / legume biomasses / maize grain yield / soil fertility restoration / weed biomass

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