Knowledge for Development

Research shows legume trees can fertilize and stabilize maize fields, generate higher yields


Date: 20/11/2012


Inserting rows of ‘fertilizer trees’ into maize fields can help farmers cope with the impacts of drought and degraded soils, according to a 12-year-long study by researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). They conducted three coordinated experiments, starting in 1991 in Malawi and Zambia, and found that farms that mix nitrogen-fixing trees and maize have consistent and relatively high yields year after year. In Malawi, the highest average maize yield was found in fields that combined both fertilizer trees and inorganic fertilizers, but applied at just half the standard recommended amounts.

Maize mono-crops grown with inorganic fertilizers may have higher yield in some years but the yield is less reliable in the long run. Mono-cropping without replenishing soil nutrients in any way – the de facto practice of resource-poor maize farmers – was the least productive and most unpredictable of all.

EurekAlert has the report (14/10/2012).

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