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The attendant low yield of cowpea among smallholder farmers has increased the need for site specific fertilizer recommendation and integration of biological materials to increase the yield of the crop. The effectiveness of applied fertilizer is constrained by the use of the in appropriate rate and improper timing of sowing. Rhizobia inoculant, on the other hand, needs a balanced nutrient application to increase crop yield. The study was designed to: i) determine the effects of inoculant, P and K mineral fertilizers on N,P,K uptake, growth and grain yield of cowpea, ii) evaluate the effect of NPK fertilizer application on the growth and yield of cowpea in the Guinea and Sudan Savanna zones of Nigeria, and iii) simulate the potential yield, yield gap, best sowing date, growth and yield of cowpea using CROPGRO – cowpea DSSAT model. The response of cowpea to rhizobia inoculation and fertilizer application revealed that sole application of inoculant was not sufficient to raise cowpea yield except when combined with 30 kg P2O5 ha-1 and 20 kg K2O ha-1. The yield response to mineral fertilizer also showed that K is very essential in determining cowpea yield and should therefore, not be omitted in any fertilizer recommendation rate. CROPGRO - Cowpea model was used to simulate the
response of cowpea to different N rates, potential yield and the best sowing dates for cowpea. The model was calibrated for Omondaw cowpea cultivar using data from the experiment carried out at Kwara (Ferric Lixisol) and Kano (Ferric Luvisol) during the 2012 and 2013 cropping seasons. The model performance was evaluated statistically using RMSE (0.13 tons ha-1), CV (RMSE) (9.9%) and Wilmott index of agreement d (0.97). A long term seasonal analysis using the model was able to detect that 15 kg N ha-1 is optimal for Ferric Lixisol while 20 kg N ha-1 was optimal for
Ferric Luvisol. To avoid crop failure, sowing window for Kwara ranged from July 11 to July 21st while that of Kano was extended to 26th July with consideration for August 5th. The yield gap analysis revealed that a wide gap exists between climatic potential yields and yields obtained from farmers‟ fields. The gaps between potential and research station yields (yield gap 1) ranged from 1.05 to 18 % of potential yield, while that of the farmers field was 84.21 % for Kwara soil and 79.55 % for Kano soil. It is necessary to reduce the yield gap by using site specific fertilizer recommendation and appropriate timing of sowing dates.
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a leguminious crop with a very vast importance and plays an active role in maintaining the ecosystem, nutrient requirement and the economy of many countries. A considerable amount of cowpea of more than 5.4 million tons are produced in the world annually with Africa producing nearly 5.2 million tons and Nigeria recorded as the greatest producers accounting for about 61% of cowpea production in Africa and 58% of the world cowpea production [IITA, 2009].
According to Wikipedia on Cowpea (2012), and IITA,( 2009); cowpea is one of the most important food legume crop in the semi arid tropics covering Asia, Africa, Southern Europe, and Central America and originated and domesticated in Southern Africa and Asia. [wikipedia/cowpea, 2012. IITA, 2009].
However, some constraint such as agro-ecological constraint, cultivation in marginal and sub marginal land, unpredictable and poor distributed rainfall, lack of soil fertility, seasonal constraint, low productivity, susceptible to pest and disease, flower shedding, tendril formation, lack of adaptive high yielding varieties have been reported to inhibit production of cowpea in some area [Maria et.al,2008].
The practice of shift cultivation to improve soil fertility and enhance production can no longer be sustained due to rapid increase in the world population. Therefore it is necessary to device an improved ways by which the soil fertility can be improved and sustained within the posible shortest time to ensure continual productivity.[ Ayoola et.al 2007]. The use of cover crop such as cowpea have been known to improve the physical , chemical and biological properties of soil.
N:P:K, a mineral fertilizer produced artificially consisting of equal proportion of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are primary macro minerals essential for optimum growth and development of plants. And also used to enhance the productivity of soil.
Poultry manure is an organic manure composed of feacal waste from domesticated birds [poultry] and wood shavings which is added to the soil to enhance the biological , physical and nutrient status of the soil.
Rhizobia are group of bacteria that forms association with the legumes and fix free atmospheric nitrogen to form useable by plants [Ovstyna,2005]. These organisms are usually enhanced by the presence of leguminious plants and organic matter in the soil [FAO, 2005].
Plants obtain nutrient from two natural sources i.e organic matter and inorganic minerals. Organic matter e.g poultry manure release its minerals to the soil through decomposition [FAO,2005]. In the decomposition process, both the soil nutrient and organism present in the soil is increased[Ingham,2000] And according to them, only carefully selected diversified cropping system or well managed mixed crop livestock system are able to maintain a balance in nutrient and organic matter supply and removal.
Changes in land use associated with deforestation and inappropriate land use management has had a negative impact on approximately 2 billion hectares of agricultural land [Pinstrup-Anderson and Pandy Lorch 1998]. Hence, need to improve the soil with organic and inorganic manure to bring about increased productivity. Some other researchers said that land degradation result in the productive decline of soil and can be attributed to changes in the physical, chemical [minerals], and biological attributes from some ideal state brought about by natural or anthropogenic influences [Latham 1994, Lal 1990].
1.2 Objectives of the study
The overall objective of this study was therefore, to improve yield of cowpea in the Guinea and Sudan savanna zones of Nigeria using rhizobia inoculant and site specific fertilizer recommendation.
The specific objectives were to:
i. assess the influence of inoculant, P and K fertilizers application on nutrient uptake, growth and grain yield of cowpea,
ii. determine the effect of NPK fertilizer application on the growth and yield of cowpea in the Guinea and Sudan Savanna zones of Nigeria
iii. to simulate potential yield, yield gap, best sowing date, growth and yield of cowpea using CROPGRO – cowpea DSSAT model.
1.3 Hypotheses of the study
The above specific objectives were formulated to test the following null hypotheses:
i. nutrient uptake, growth and grain yield of cowpea is not influenced by inoculant, P and K fertilizer application,
ii. growth and yield of cowpea in the Guinea and Sudan Savanna zones of Nigeria is not affected by the application of NPK fertilizer, iii. potential yield, yield gap, best sowing date, growth and yield of cowpea cannot be simulated using CROPGRO – cowpea DSSAT model
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