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Effects of maize residue and mineral nitrogen applications on maize yield in conservation-agriculture-based cropping systems of Southern Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2019

W. Mupangwa*
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, ILRI Sholla Campus, P O Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
C. Thierfelder
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
S. Cheesman
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, P.O. Box 8016, Windhoek, Namibia
I. Nyagumbo
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
T. Muoni
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
B. Mhlanga
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
M. Mwila
Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, Msekera Research Station, P.O. Box 510089, Chipata, Zambia
T. S. Sida
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, ILRI Sholla Campus, P O Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A. Ngwira
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Chitedze Research Station, P.O. Box 1096, Lilongwe, Malawi
Author for correspondence: W. Mupangwa, E-mail:;


Conservation agriculture (CA) and no-till (NT)-based cropping systems could address soil degradation and fertility decline in southern Africa. A multi-location and multi-year experiment was carried out between 2008 and 2014 to assess the effects of different levels of maize residue biomass (0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 t ha−1) and nitrogen (N) fertilizer (0, 30, 90 kg ha−1) on maize performance under no-tillage. In some sites, different (N) fertilizer levels were superimposed to test their effects on maize grain yield and leaf chlorophyll content under different maize residue biomass levels. The different residue levels had no significant effect on maize yield in most growing seasons. Maize residue cover increased grain yield in eight out of 39 site-years across the sites used. However, in some sites, maize yield decreased with increases in residue level in cropping seasons that had average to above average rainfall. At a few sites maize yield increased with increase in residue level. Seasonal rainfall pattern influenced the effect of different residue levels on grain yield at most sites. Nitrogen fertilizer increased maize yield regardless of the residue level applied. This study demonstrates that mulching with maize residues in CA/NT systems results in limited maize yield gains – at least within the first 6 years in different agro-ecological conditions of southern Africa.

Research Paper
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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