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Guidelines for integration of legumes into the farming systems of East African highlands

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Grain legumes are major protein sources for animals andhumans. Given that farmers export both grain and stoverfrom the fields, the amount of residue left to the soil is toosmall to have a profound effect on soil fertility. Participatoryresearch was conducted to evaluate the performance of sixlegume cover crops (Vetch, Stylosanthus, Crotalaria, Mucuna,Canavalia, and Tephrosia) and two food crops (Pea andCommon bean) in southern Ethiopian Highlands, one of theAfrican Highlands Initiative (AHI) sites called Areka, to beused for soil fertility improvement. Besides evaluating thebiomass productivity of legumes, the objective of this researchwas to learn about the perception of farmers to LCC, feedand food legumes, to identify socio-economic factors affectingadoption and also to identify potential niches for theirintegration. For short term fallow (three months or less),Crotalaria gave significantly higher biomass yield (4.2 t ha-1)followed by Vetch and Mucuna (2 t ha-1), while for medium-term fallow (six months or more) Tephrosia was the best performing species (13.5 t ha-1) followed by Crotalaria (8.5 tha-1). The selection criterion of farmers was far beyondbiomass production, and differed from the selection criteria of researchers. Farmers identified firm root system, early soil cover, biomass yield, decomposition rate, soil moisture conservation, drought resistance and feed value as important biophysical criteria. Soil moisture conservation was mentioned as one important criterion and decreased in order of Mucuna (22.8%), Vetch (20.8 %), Stylosanthus (20.2 %), bare soil (17.1 %), Crotalaria (14 %), Canavalia (14 %) and Tephrosia (11.9 %), respectively. The overall sum of farmers’ ranking showed that Mucuna followed by Croletaria are potentially fitting species. However, Vetch was the most preferred legume by farmers regardless of low biomass, due to its’ early growth, high feed value and fast decompositionwhen incorporated into the soil. The most important socio-economic criteria of farmers for decision-making on whichlegumes to integrate into their temporal & spatial niches ofthe system were land productivity, farm size, land ownership,access to market and need for livestock feed. These indicatorswere used for the development of draft decision guides forintegration of legumes into multiple cropping systems of EastAfrican Highlands.

DOI:
https://doi.org/10568/55338
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    Publication year

    2003

    Authors

    Amede, T; Kirkby, R

    Language

    English

    Keywords

    legumes, farming systems, soil degradation, cover plants

    Geographic

    Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania

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