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A long-term field experiment was established in 2003 at the Institute for Agricultural Research, (I.A.R)
Samaru, northern Guineasavannaof Nigeria to evaluate the effect of Nfertilizeron maizegrown in rotation
with maize, cowpea and soybean. The trial was modified to accommodate tillage as an additional
experimental factor in 2009. Ten years later (in 2013), soil and crop data were collected to determine the
influence of the experimental factors namely; crop rotation, tillage and N fertilization on soil quality, maize
grain and stover yield. To achieve these objectives, data were taken from the maize phase of the rotation
where maize was grown in rotation with maize, maize in rotation with soybean and maize in rotation with
cowpea, under conventional and reduced tillage, with N fertilization of 0 kg N ha-1 and 90 kg N ha-1. The
trial was arranged in a split plot design, replicated three times, with the rotation and tillage in the main plot
while N fertilization was in the sub-plot. Soil qualitywas determined usingthe procedure described by Parr
et al. (1992). Soil quality indicators used were soil physical properties (bulk density, saturated hydraulic
conductivity and moisture content), soil biological properties (urease, soil microbial biomass C and soil
microbial biomass N) and soil chemical properties (total N. soil organic C). The study showed that the
experimental soil was low in quality (SQ = 4) under continuous maize cultivation; however, crop rotation
of soybean and cowpea improved the soil quality to moderate status (SQ = 3). Tillage had no effect on soil
quality but N fertilization improved soil quality only in the rotation involving legumes (SQ = 3). To
improve the soil quality in the northern Guinea savanna of Nigeria over a long period of time, farmers are
recommended to practice crop rotation of maizein rotation with cowpeaand maizein rotation with soybean
at 90 kgNha-1 underconventional tillagepractices. Farmers arealso recommended to practicecroprotation
of maize in rotation with cowpea (2,791 kg ha-1) and maize in rotation with soybean (3,262kg ha-1) under
conventional tillage (3,401 kg ha-1) and the application of N fertilizer at 60 kg N ha-1 (3,564 kg ha-1) for
higher grain yield of maize in the northern Guinea savanna of Nigeria.
Long-term field experiments are expected to provide important information regarding soil properties as
affected by cropping system and soil management practices. Legumes such as cowpea and soybean add
both organic matter and nitrogen (N) to the soil (Omay et al., 1997; Sainju et al., 2003) and increase soil
fertility. Maize is the second most essential cereal crop after sorghum in sub-Saharan Africa; it is grown
much more intensively than it was estimated since 1985 (FAO, 1999). In Nigeria, maize yield averages
about 1.4 tons per hectare and this is only about 20% of the average in Canada and other parts of the
world where intensive cereal production is carried out (Afolami and Fawole, 1991; FAO, 1999). Studies
have shown that legume-cereal rotation produce relatively higher grain yields than either crop grown
alone (Rao and Mathuva, 2000; Olufemi et al., 2001; Mpairwe et al., 2002; Dapaah et al., 2003).
Rotating maize with grain legumes is often targeted towards utilizing biologically fixed-nitrogen by
legumes for the benefit of the maize (Yusuf et al., 2009). Nitrogen fertilizers are most effectively used
as part of abalanced fertilization plan that aims to maximizeeconomicreturn of acereal–legume rotation
system; Nitrogen fertilizer, apart from increasing the content of nitrate in soil that leads to its leaching
(Porter et al.,1996), results in changes in soil pH and manyother soil properties (Bradyand Weil, 2002).
Long-term field experiments with N fertilization can give valuableinformation about how those changes
occur and indicate the trends of the changes (Dragan et al., 2010).
Nitrogen (N) is most often the yield limiting nutrient with respect to crop production (Factsheet, 2014).
Nitrogen contributes firstlyto grain yield and forage biomass production, and at the same time to protein
(Eche, 2011). Nitrogen is essential for seed formation and maturity. A steady supply is needed during
the early growth stage and this steady supply can be provided by the action of soil microorganisms on
the soil organic matter (SOM) or by application of inorganic fertilizers (Eche, 2011). Nitrogen stress
was observed to cause reduction in the number of grains per ear (Lemcoff and Loomis, 1994). However,
nitrogen fertilizers can be permanentlylost through ammonia volatilization, denitrification, leaching and
run-off if not well managed. It could also result in changes in soil pH which affects the availability of
other plant nutrients. Nitrogen can be fixed in the soil through symbiotic association of some
microorganism (e.g rhizobia) and leguminous plants (Brady and Weil, 2002). Therefore proper
management of soil in terms of method of tillage practice and cropping system is very important in
determining the amount of N in the soil (Veenstra et al., 2006).
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