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Tillage and fertilizer effect on maize and soybean yields in the Guinea savanna zone of Ghana

Buah, SamuelSaaka Jeduah, Ibrahim, Hashim, Derigubah, Mavis, Kuzie, Martin, Segtaa, JamesVuuro, Bayala, Jules, Zougmore, Robert, Ouedraogo, Mathieu
Agriculture & food security 2017 v.6 no.1 pp. 17
Glycine max, NPK fertilizers, Zea mays, calcium oxide, conventional tillage, corn, cost effectiveness, costs and returns, dry matter accumulation, farmers, fertilizer application, glyphosate, grain yield, labor, magnesium oxide, mineral fertilizers, no-tillage, nutrient availability, pods, rain, savanna soils, savannas, small-scale farming, soil fertility, soybeans, weed control, Ghana
BACKGROUND: The most limiting factors for sustainable maize production in smallholder farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa, especially the savanna agro-ecological zone, are erratic rainfall pattern and low soil fertility. METHODS: Research was conducted with smallholder farmers in 2013 and 2014 in two communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana to evaluate the effects of NPK mineral fertilizer (64–38–38 kg ha⁻¹ N–P₂O₅–K₂O, respectively) on growth and yield of maize at Bompari, and 375 kg ha⁻¹ of YaraLegume™ fertilizer (0–18–13 NPK + 3 CaO + 2 MgO + 4 S) on growth and yield of soybean at Doggoh, under no-tillage (using pre-plant application of glyphosate) and conventional tillage (using hand hoe). RESULTS: Mean grain yields of both maize and soybean were higher in 2014 than 2013. In both years, no-tillage and conventional tillage had similar effect on soybean plant height, pods per plant and aboveground dry matter production. Averaging over fertilizer treatment, grain yield of no-tillage soybean was 51% higher when compared with tilled soybean in 2014 only. Mean grain yield of no-tillage maize was 68% higher than that of tilled maize in 2013 only. Regardless of tillage method, fertilizer application significantly increased maize and soybean grain yields. Application of fertilizer to soybean resulted in 59% (193 kg ha⁻¹) and 54% (474 kg ha⁻¹) increase in grain yields in 2013 and 2014, respectively, over no fertilizer treatment. Mean grain yield of maize was 140 and 252% higher with fertilizer treatment in 2013 and 2014, respectively. No-till system showed cost savings due to reduced labour mainly for weed control. CONCLUSION: The results of these studies showed that no-tillage with fertilizer, whether for maize or soybean, generally resulted in the highest grain yields. No-tillage also gave the highest economic returns. Farmers can get better returns to the money invested in herbicide for producing maize and soybean under no-till than with their traditional practice even on degraded savanna soils with low levels of plant available nutrients.