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Increased productivity through integrated soil fertility management in cassava–legume intercropping systems in the highlands of Sud-Kivu, DR Congo

Pypers, Pieter, Sanginga, Jean-Marie, Kasereka, Bishikwabo, Walangululu, Masamba, Vanlauwe, Bernard
Field crops research 2011 v.120 no.1 pp. 76-85
beans, organic matter, soil amendments, crop yield, intercropping, roots, market value, fertilizer application, germplasm, compound fertilizers, seeds, farming systems, highlands, soil, grains, biomass production, organic fertilizers, economic productivity, cassava, farmers, soybeans, Republic of the Congo
Smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are confronted by low productivity and limited investment capacity in nutrient inputs. Integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) aims at increased productivity through the combined use of improved germplasm, judicious fertilizer application and organic matter management, adapted to the local farming conditions. We hypothesize that the application of these different ISFM components can result in significant increases in productivity and economic benefits of cassava–legume intercropping systems. Participatory demonstration trials were conducted in the highlands of Sud-Kivu, DR Congo with 12 farmer groups during 3 seasons. Treatments included the farmers’ common practice (local common bean and cassava varieties, seed broadcast and manure addition) and sequentially added ISFM components: improved bean and cassava germplasm, modified crop arrangements, compound NPK fertilizer application and alternative legume species (groundnut or soybean). The use of improved germplasm did not result in yield increases without simultaneous implementation of other ISFM components. Modifying the crop arrangement by planting cassava at 2m between rows and 0.5m within the row, intercropped with four legume lines, increased bean yields during the first season and permits a second bean intercrop, which can increase total legume production by up to 1tha⁻¹ and result in an additional revenue of almost 1000USDha⁻¹. Crop arrangement or a second legume intercrop did not affect cassava storage root yields. Fertilizer application increased both legume and cassava yield, and net revenue by 400–700USDha⁻¹ with a marginal rate of return of 1.6–2.7. Replacing the common bean intercrop by groundnut increased net revenue by 200–400USDha⁻¹ partly because of the higher market value of the grains, but mostly due to a positive effect on cassava storage root yield. Soybean affected cassava yields negatively because of its high biomass production and long maturity period; modifications are needed to integrate a soybean intercrop into the system. The findings demonstrate the large potential of ISFM to increase productivity in cassava–legume systems in the Central-African highlands. Benefits were, however, not observed in all study sites. In poor soils, productivity increases were variable or absent, and soil amendments are required. A better understanding of the conditions under which positive effects occur can enable better targeting and local adaptation of the technologies.