Legume Research Network Project Newsletter

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Date
2000
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Kenya Agriculture Research Institute
Abstract
Matunda farm is situated at the lower slopes of Mt Elgon. It lies in the upper midland zone four (UM4). The soils are ferralsols and are prone to erosion. The annual rainfall is 900 - 1600 mm and falls in bimodal pattern with peaks in May and August. The main crops grown are maize and beans and sometimes they are intercropped. The average farm size is 2 acres and a few households keep one or two indigenous cattle. Declining soil fertility has been identified as a major cause of low crop yields in Matunda; the average maize yield is 2 t ha-1. One of the causes of declining soil fertility is continuous cropping without the use of either organic manures or inorganic fertilisers. Since 1994 several workshops have been held to train farmers on compost making and storage and farmyard manure (FYM) storage in order to preserve quality. However, farmers preferred compost making as a method of replenishing plant nutrients because only a few of them own livestock. Unfortunately, most farmers cannot make enough compost for the whole farm in one season because of labour limitations and unavailability of plant material. To improve yields of maize in Matunda, which is planted in large plots, alternative sources of nutrient besides inorganic ones have to be sought. One such source is the use of green manures. Green manuring involves growing of plant material, usually legumes for the purpose of incorporating it into the soil (Muller-Sumann, 1994). Green manures add nitrogen to the soil and organic matter which improves soil water holding capacity, nutrient content, nutrient balance, friability and pH (Bunch, 1995).
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