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Effects of improved fallow with Sesbania sesban on maize productivity and Striga hermonthica infestation in Western Kenya

Hans Sjgren Keith D Shepherd Anders KarlssonDepartment of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences S-901 83 Ume Sweden.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.  
Striga hermonthica is a major constraint to smallholder sub-sistence agriculture production in the sub-Saharan African region. Low soil fertility and overall environmental degradation has contributed to the build-up of the parasitic weed infestation. Improved cropping systems have to be introduced to address the interrelated problems of S. her-monthica and soil fertility decline. Thus, the effects of improved fallow with leguminous shrub Sesbania sesban on maize yields and levels of S. hermonthica infestation on farm land in the bimodal highlands of western Kenya were investigated. The experimental treatments were arranged in a phased entry, and randomized complete block scheme were six months Sesbania fallow, 18 months Sesbania fallow, six months natural fallow consisting of regrowth of natural vegetation without cultivation, 18 months natural fallow, continuous maize cropping without fertilizer application, and continuous maize cropping with P and N fertilization. Results show that Sesbania fallows significantly (p0.05) increase maize yield relative to continuous unfertilized maize. S. hermonthica plant populations decrease in continuous maize between the first season (mean = 428 000 ± 63 000 ha-1) and second season (mean=51 000 ± 15 000 ha-1), presumably in response to good weed management. S. hermonthica seed populations in the soil decrease throughout the duration of the experi-ment in the continuous maize treatments. Short-duration Sesbania fal-lows can provide modest yield improvements relative to continuous unfertilized maize, but short-duration weedy fallows are ineffective. Continuous maize cultivation with good weed control may provide more effective S. hermonthica control than fallowing.
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