EFFECT OF LONG TERM ROTATION, NITROGEN FERTILIZER AND TILLAGE ON SOIL QUALITY AND MAIZE YIELD IN THE NORTHERN GUINEA SAVANNA OF NIGERIA

EFFECT OF LONG TERM ROTATION, NITROGEN FERTILIZER AND TILLAGE ON SOIL QUALITY AND MAIZE YIELD IN THE NORTHERN GUINEA SAVANNA OF NIGERIA

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Abstract

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.

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 Introduction

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

1


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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