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ISSN : 2456-8643

Title:
CROP PRODUCTIVITY SUSTAINABILITY IN THE SOUTHERN ULUGURU MOUNTAINS THROUGH CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE TECHNOLOGICAL OPTIONS

Authors:
Mlengera, N ; Mtakwa, P. W ; Salim, B. A ; Mrema, G. C

Abstract:
In the southern Uluguru Mountains, conventional farming practice that involves slash and burn followed by conventional cultivation on steep slopes has resulted in declining soil fertility due to soil erosion and limited fertilizer use. Progressive declines in crop yields under conventional farming practices force farmers to abandon their fields to other pieces of land. This has led to an increasing encroachment into catchment forests and other marginal lands. A study was carried out for four cropping seasons from 2013 to 2016 whereby Conservation Agriculture (CA) technologies that involved Zero and Minimum tillage with legume (lablab and cowpea) intercropping as well as crop residue retention were evaluated for their ability to improve and sustain production in the southern Uluguru Mountains. Results indicated a gradual improvement in soil fertility and yields as a result of the use of CA technologies compared to Conventional practices (T1M1) that showed a gradual decrease in yields. The best CA treatment (T3M1) (Zero till with sole maize) had a 58 % increase in maize yield compared to the Conventional practice. Determination of the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) showed significant difference (P < 0.05) between Conventional practice (T1M1) and CA technological options. The Conventional practice (T1M1) ranked the least for the 4th cropping season out of the nine treatments tested, eight having CA components. The Conventional practice (T1M1) and the best CA practice (T3M1) had BCR of 1.9 and 3.0, respectively. The results suggest that CA technologies, besides being able to sustain crop productivity on steep lands, can bring about immediate economic benefit for cropping seasons characterized with erratic rains and prolonged dry spells.

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