Maize production in Malawi is limited by high costs and sub-optimal use of chemical fertilizers under continuous cultivation. A long-term gliricidia/maize trial was undertaken on a Ferric Lixisol from 1991/92 to 2001/02. The purpose of the study was to assess the performance of a gliricidia/maize intercropping system as a low-input soil fertility replenishment option in southern Malawi. The experiment was a 2 × 3 × 3 factorial design with three replications. Treatments included two maize cropping systems (with and without gliricidia trees), and three rates of inorganic N fertilizer (0, 24 and 48 N kg ha−1 representing 0, 25 and 50% of the national recommended N rate), and three rates of P fertilizer application (0, 20 and 40 P ha−1 representing 0, 50 and 100% of the recommended rate). No effect of P was detected on yield early in the trial, and this treatment was discontinued. The gliricidia pruning biomass did not decline after 10 years of intensive pruning, with strong correlation between tree biomass production and years after establishment (r = 0.91, p < 0.001). Application of gliricidia prunings increased maize yields by three times compared to the yield of unfertilized sole maize. Maize yield from the unfertilized gliricidia pruning treatment was superior to the yield from sole maize supplemented with a quarter or half the recommended N rate. The study confirmed that a gliricidia/maize intercropping system is a promising soil fertility replenishment option in southern Malawi and elsewhere in southern Africa.
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