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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10353/347

Title: Evaluation of cover crop species for biomass production weed suppression and maize yields under irrigation in the Eastern Cape Province South Africa
Authors: Musunda, Bothwell Zvidzai
Keywords: Biomass energy
No-tillage
Conservation
Natural resources
Agriculture
Systems
Eastern Cape
South Africa
Cover crop
Species
Weed suppression
Crops
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: University of Fort Hare
Abstract: ABSTRACT Achieving high biomass yields of cover crops has been a challenge to the success of Conservation Agriculture (CA) practices in the Eastern Cape (EC). A study was conducted to evaluate strategies for optimizing cover crop biomass production. Trials were carried out to screen summer and winter cover crops, as well as evaluate intercropping patterns and planting dates for biomass, weed suppression and subsequent maize yield under irrigation. Four summer legume cover crop species were evaluated under a Randomised Complete Block Design (RCBD) design. The cover crops were fertilized with 13.34 kg ha-1 of N, 20 kg ha-1 P and 26.66 kg ha-1 K. In the 2008/09 summer season a maize crop was superimposed on the 2007/08 screening trial under no-till. The crop was fertilized with 60 kg ha-1 of N. An intercropping trial was conducted over two seasons as a way of investigating the best way of incorporating cover crops into farmers cropping systems. This was done bearing in mind the limitation of resources such as land. The trial evaluated 3 factors laid as a 2 x 2 x 3 factorial arranged in a split-plot design. The main factor was cover crop planting date (planting at maize planting or 2 weeks after maize planting). The sub plot factor was intercropping pattern (strip intercropping and between row intercropping). A trial was also conducted to evaluate the effect of planting date (End of April and mid May) and four winter legume cover crop species on cover crop biomass, weed suppression and maize grain yield. The experiment was laid out as a Randomised Complete Block Design (RCBD) replicated 3 times. In the subsequent summer season a maize crop was superimposed on the winter trial to test the residual effects of the cover crop species. Another study was conducted to evaluate winter cereal cover crop species for biomass accumulation, weed suppression and subsequent maize grain yield. The cover crops as well as a weedy fallow control plot treatments were laid out as a v Randomised Complete Block Design replicated 3 times. In the subsequent summer season a maize crop was superimposed on the site under no-till to evaluate the residual effect of the cover crops on maize. The results showed sunhemp, cowpea and lablab as the best cover crops with high biomass and weed suppression whilst mucuna was the least. Sunhemp consistently yielded higher cover biomass averaging 11200 kg ha-1 over the two seasons whilst mucuna had a consistently lowest average biomass yield of 4050 kg ha-1. These cover crops were above the critical 6 t ha-1 for effective weed suppression. There was a significant (p<0.01) relationship of cover crop dry weight and weed dry weight in both seasons. Subsequent maize grain yield was significantly higher in the sunhemp plots (64.2 %) than the weedy fallow plot. Mucuna, lablab and cowpea had maize grain yield increases of 16.6%, 33% and 43.2% respectively. Intercropping cover crops at maize planting yielded higher cover crop dry weights than a delay in intercropping cover crops. A delay in intercropping resulted in significantly higher average maize grain yield of 4700 kg ha-1 compared to intercropping at maize planting (3800 kg ha-1) and sole maize (4300 kg ha-1) over the two seasons. Strip intercropping also yielded higher (5000 kg ha- 1) average maize grain yield compared to row intercropping (3600 kg ha-1) and sole maize (4300 kg ha-1). There was a significant (p<0.05) relationship between cover crop dry weight in the 2007/08 season and maize grain yield in the 2008/09 season. Early planting grazing vetch gave the highest biomass yield of 8100 kg ha-1 whilst early planted red clover had the lowest biomass of 635 kg ha-1. Low weed dry weights were also obtained from the early planted grazing vetch as opposed to the other treatments. There was a significant (p<0.001) relationship of cover crop dry weight and weed dry weight. In the subsequent 2008/09 summer season early planted grazing vetch had the highest maize yield of 7500 kg ha-1 which was 56.3 % more than the weedy fallow plot had 4800 kg ha-1. The weedy fallow plot also had high weed infestation than the cover crop plots. There were significant (p<0.01) relationships between cover crop dry weight vi and maize grain yield, winter weed dry weight and maize grain yield and summer weed dry weight and maize grain yield. The results also showed triticale (13900 kg ha-1) as the best winter cover crop for biomass production. Italian ryegrass (6500 kg ha-1) produced the least amount of biomass. In The subsequent maize crop white oats gave highest maize grain yield (6369 kg ha-1) which was 33 % more than the weedy fallow plot (4784 kg ha- 1). There were also significant (p< 0.01) relationships of maize grain yield and winter weed dry weight, maize grain yield and summer growing weeds. The various studies demonstrated that there is opportunity for high biomass production under small scale farmers irrigated conditions using cover crops both in winter and summer. Best bet cover crops were sunhemp, cowpea and lablab for summer and triticale, white oats, barley, Italian ryegrass and grazing vetch for winter. Cover crops can also be incorporated into farmers cropping systems as sole crops or intercrops within the maize based cropping systems. Strip intercropping can be used by farmers as a way of introducing cover crops. Critical to achievement of high biomass is the time of planting cover crops with high biomass when planting is done early. A 2 week delay in strip intercropping cover crop into maize can be used as a way of incorporating cover crops into farmers cropping systems with minimal maize yield reduction.
Description: Thesis (M.Sc.)(Crop science)--University of Fort Hare, 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10353/347
Library of Congress Subject Headings: Cover crops
Biomass energy--South Africa--Eastern Cape
Conservation of natural resources--South Africa--Eastern Cape
Agricultural systems--South Africa--Eastern Cape
Appears in Collections:Theses and Dissertations (Crop Science)

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