Best-bet soil fertilty management options: The case of Malawi

Type Conference Paper - African Crop Science Conference Proceedings
Title Best-bet soil fertilty management options: The case of Malawi
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2005
Page numbers 0-0
Agriculture is the backbone of food and economic security in Malawi, accounting for 90% of food produced and 10% of export earnings. However, soil fertility depletion under continuous cultivation, in the face of increased human population pressure, combine to constrain agricultural production. As a result the country is trapped in a vicious cycle of chronic food insecurity. Several decades of research in Malawi have demonstrated potential for various best-bet soil fertility management options for mitigating the soil fertility decline. The inorganic fertiliser option has proved to be the most reliable. However, this option is largely beyond the reach of the majority of smallholder farmers in Malawi. Incorporation of crop residues and weeds has proven to be the most ineffective owing to their wide carbon to nitrogen ratios and low nutrient content. Organic carbon and nitrogen from compost and livestock manures have been demonstrated to be richer in nutrients than residues and weeds except that their wide application is constrained by labour bottlenecks. Integrated nutrient management involving nitrogen fixing herbaceous legumes such as groundnuts, mucuna, clotalaria and Lab lab or tree legumes such as Sesbania, Pigeon peas, Tephrosia, Gliricidia and Tithonia, with and without
compost and livestock manures have proved to be the best-bet options under Malawi conditions. This paper discusses the merits and demerits of integrated soil fertility management options drawing experiences from over a decade of agroforestry research under various landscape positions within watersheds in Malawi.

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