Tree and crop productivity in gliricidia/maize/pigeonpea cropping systems in southern Malawi

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Kluwer Academic Publishers


This study examined the hypothesis that incorporation of Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp.) (gliricidia), a fast- growing, nitrogen-fixing tree, into agroforestry systems in southern Malawi may be used to increase the input of organic fertilizer and reduce the need for expensive inorganic fertilizers. The productivity of maize (Zea mays L.), pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.) and gliricidia grown as sole stands or in mixed cropping systems was examined at Makoka Research Station (latitude 15 ◦ 30 ′ S, longitude 35 ◦ 15 ′ E) and a nearby farm site at Nazombe between 1996 and 2000. Treatments included gliricidia intercropped with maize, with or without pigeonpea, and sole stands of gliricidia, maize and pigeonpea. Trees in the agroforestry systems were pruned before and during the cropping season to provide green leaf manure. Maize yields and biomass production by each component were determined and fractional light interception was measured during the reproductive stage of maize. Substantial quantities of green leaf manure (2.4 to 9.0 Mg ha −1 year −1 ) were produced from the second or third year after tree establishment. Green leaf manure and fuelwood production were greatest when gliricidia was grown as unpruned sole woodlots (c. 8.0 and 22 Mg ha −1 year −1 respectively). Improvements in maize yield in the tree-based systems also became significant in the third year, when c. 3.0 Mg ha −1 of grain was obtained. Tree-based cropping systems were most productive and exhibited greater fractional light interception (c. 0.6 to 0.7) than cropping systems without trees (0.1 to 0.4). No beneficial influence of pigeonpea on maize performance was apparent either in the presence or absence of gliricidia at either site in most seasons. However, as unpruned gliricidia provided the greatest interception of incident solar radiation (>0.9), coppicing may be required to reduce shading when gliricidia is grown together with maize. As pigeonpea production was unaffected by the presence of gliricidia, agroforestry systems containing gliricidia might be used to replace traditional maize + pigeonpea systems in southern Malawi.



Gliricidia, Green leaf manure, Light interception, Intercropping, Production