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Growth and yield responses of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) to inorganic and organic fertilizers in southern Malawi

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Fertilizer trees the nitrogen-fixing legumes such as gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) and tephrosia (Tephrosia spp.) have been used to improve soil fertility for higher crop yields in nitrogen deficient soils. Many studies have focused on how these fertilizer trees improve maize yield but there has been a dearth of information on the effect of fertilizer tree species on cotton growth and yield. A study was undertaken for two cropping seasons (2012/13 and 2013/14) with the objective of assessing IRM 81 cotton growth and yield responses to tephrosia and/or gliricidia biomass with or without inorganic fertilizer application. Boll opening significantly varied (P < 0.0001) with treatments and early boll opening was observed in plots where only inorganic fertilizer was applied. Higher lint yield (mean of 1397 kg/ha) was obtained in the second cropping season than in the first cropping season (480 kg/ha) and the application of gliricidia biomass with fertilizer gave the highest lint yield (2121 kg/ha). The lowest lint and seed yields were obtained from plots where tephrosia biomass only was applied. It is concluded that the use of gliricidia biomass with inorganic fertilizer improved cotton yields. The high amount of gliricidia biomass (due to prolific coppicing) applied contributed to higher cotton lint yields with reduced rates of inorganic fertilizer application making gliricidia-cotton intercropping a cost-effective option to smallholder farmers. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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