Efficient Use of Nutrients and Water Through Hill-Placed Combination of Manure and Mineral Fertilizer in Maize Farming System in Northern Benin
Maize, a major staple food in many farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa, is characterized by low productivity due to the scarce availability and use of external inputs and recurrent droughts exacerbated by climate variability. Within the integrated soil fertility management framework, there is thus a need for optimizing the use of fertilizers and manure for the efficient use of limited nutrient resources and rainfall, and to increase crop yield and farmer income. On-station experiments were conducted in Northern Benin over a 4-year period using a split-plot design with three replications to evaluate the effect of hill-placed mineral fertilizer and manure on yields and soil chemical properties. The treatments consisted of the combination of: (i) three rates of manure (main plot): 0, 3 (3M) and 6 (6M) t ha−1; and (ii) three levels of fertilizer (sub-plot): 0%(NF), 50% (50F) and 100% (100F) of the recommended rate (76 kg N + 13.1 kg P + 24.9 K ha−1). Hill-placement of manure and/or fertilizer significantly improved soil organic carbon content, available P and exchangeable K in the vicinity of the planting hills. As a result, yields increased steadily over time for all manure and fertilizer combinations, with yields up to 5 times higher than the control for the 6M-100F treatment. Value-cost ratios and benefit-cost ratios were >2 and generally as good or even better for treatments involving 50F compared to NF or 100F. Although applying half the recommended rate of fertilizer is performed by many farmers and appears to make economic sense, this practice is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run. Substituting 50F for 3M or complementing 50F with 3M are two possible strategies that are compatible with the precepts of ISFM and provide returns on investment at least as good as the current practice. However, this will require greater manure production, made possible by the increased stover yields, and access to means of transportation to deliver the manure to the fields.
KeywordsManure Fertilizer Maize yields Water and nutrient use efficiency Profitability
The authors are grateful to the staff of Agricultural Research Centre of Northern Benin (INRAB CRA-Nord) for their technical help, the “Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)” program of the CGIAR and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Benin) for their financial support to this study. The first author benefitted from a doctoral fellowship from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Benin) and the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL).
This study was funded by the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)” program of CGIAR and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Benin).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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