Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY OF USE OF SMALL AMOUNTS OF NITROGEN AND PHOSPHORUS FERTILISER ON SMALLHOLDER MAIZE IN CENTRAL MALAWI

  • B. C. G. KAMANGA (a1) (a2), S. R. WADDINGTON (a3), A. M. WHITBREAD (a4), C. J. M. ALMEKINDERS (a1) and K. E. GILLER (a2)...

Summary

Mineral fertiliser is a scarce input for smallholder maize farmers in Malawi. A recent provision of small amounts of subsidised fertilisers by government programmes to farmers throughout Malawi has increased fertiliser access and raised maize production, but fertiliser management and yield responses frequently remain poor. To seek ways to use the fertiliser more efficiently, we analysed the effects of low rates of N (15 or 30 kg N ha−1) and P (9 kg P ha−1) fertiliser in combination with improved weed management on maize yields in experiments on 12 smallholder farms in Chisepo, central Malawi. Several indices of N and P use efficiency were computed from the above-ground crop components and nutrient contents. Maize yield simulations were conducted using long-term rainfall records in the APSIM crop-soil system model. NP fertiliser significantly (p < 0.001) raised maize grain yield from 0.65 to 1.5 t ha−1, and twice-weeding fertilised maize significantly (p < 0.001) raised maize yields by 0.4 t ha−1 compared with weeding once (0.9 t ha−1). The agronomic efficiency of applied fertiliser N (AEN) averaged 19.3 kg grain kg N−1 with one weeding but doubled to 38.7 kg with the additional weeding. The physiological efficiency of applied N (PEN) was 40.7 kg grain kg−1 N uptake. APSIM predicted that similar or larger maize yield responses to 15 or 30 kg N ha−1 can be expected in 8 out of 10 years in areas with similar rainfall patterns to Chisepo. A financial analysis showed that the application of these small amounts of fertiliser was economic even when fertiliser was purchased from the open market, provided the crop was adequately weeded. Participatory assessments helped farmers understand the increased efficiency of fertiliser use possible with additional weeding, although some farmers reported difficulty implementing this recommendation due to competing demands for labour. We conclude that to raise the productivity and sustainability of fertiliser support programmes in Malawi, initiatives should be introduced to help identify and educate farmers on the major drivers of productivity in their systems.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author. Email: srwaddington@gmail.com

References

Hide All
African Fertiliser Summit (2006). Abuja, Nigeria, 9–13 June 2006. Available at: http://www.africanfertilisersummit.org.
Alwang, J. and Seigel, P. B. (1999). Labour shortages on small landholdings in Malawi: implications for policy reforms. World Development 27:14611475.
Anderson, J. M. and Ingram, J. S. I. (1993). Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility: A Handbook of Methods. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.
Benson, T. D. (1997). Spatial and temporal variation in fertilizer recommendations for maize grown by smallholders in Malawi. In Maize Commodity Team Annual Report, 135144. Lilongwe, Malawi: Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture Research, Chitedze Research Station.
Cassman, K. G., Dobermann, A. and Walters, D. T. (2002). Agroecosystems, nitrogen-use efficiency, and nitrogen management. Ambio 31:132140.
Chisinga, B. (2008). Reclaiming Policy Space: Lessons from Malawi's 2005/2006 Fertilizer Subsidy Programme. Brighton, UK: Future Agricultures, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.
Concern Universal. (2011). Conservation Agriculture Research Study. Blantyre, Malawi: Concern Universal Malawi.
de Wit, C. T. (1953). A physical theory on placement of fertilisers. Verslagen van landbouwkundige onderezoekingen 59 (4):71.
de Wit, C. T. (1992). Resource use efficiency in agriculture. Agricultural Systems 40:125151.
Dimes, J., Muza, L., Malunga, G. and Snapp, S. (2004). Trade-offs between investments in nitrogen and weeding: on-farm experimentation and simulation analysis in Malawi and Zimbabwe. In Integrated Approaches to Higher Maize Productivity in the New Millennium. Proceedings of the 7th Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Maize Conference, 511 February 2002, Nairobi, Kenya, 452456 (Eds Friesen, D. K. and Palmer, A. F. E.). Nairobi, Kenya: CIMMYT and KARI.
Dobermann, A. R. (2005). Nitrogen Use Efficiency. State of the Art. Lincoln, USA: Agronomy and Horticulture Department, Agronomy Faculty Publications, University of Nebraska.
Dorward, A. and Chirwa, E. (2011). The Malawi agricultural input subsidy programme: 2005/06 to 2008/09. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 9 (1):232247.
FAO. (2000). Fertilizers and Their Use: A Pocket Guide for Extension Officers, 4th edn. Rome, Italy and Paris, France: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and International Fertilizer Association.
Giller, K. E. (2001). Nitrogen Fixation in Tropical Cropping Systems, 2nd edn. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.
Giller, K. E., Rowe, E. C., de Ridder, N. and van Keulen, H. (2006). Resource use dynamics and interactions in the tropics: scaling up in space and time. Agricultural Systems 88:827.
Government of Malawi (2008). Enhancing Agricultural Input Use Efficiency in Malawi. A Research Report of the National Subsidy Programme Technical Support Workshop held in Lilongwe, 15–16 April 2008. Lilongwe, Malawi: Department of Planning, Ministry of Agriculture.
Heisey, P. W. and Mwangi, W. (1996). Fertilizer Use and Maize Production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Economics Program Working Paper 96-01. México, DF: CIMMYT.
Kabambe, V. H. and Kumwenda, J. D. T. (1995). Weed management and nitrogen rate effects on maize grain yield and yield components in Malawi. In Proceedings of the Fourth Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Maize Conference, held at Harare, Zimbabwe, 28 March–1 April 1994, 238–241 (Eds Jewell, D. C., Waddington, S. R., Ransom, J. K. and Pixley, K. V.). México, DF: CIMMYT.
Kamanga, B. C. G. (2002). Farmer experimentation to assess the potential of legumes in maize-based cropping systems in Malawi. Risk Management Project Working Paper 02-02. México, DF: CIMMYT.
Kamanga, B. C. G., Waddington, S. R., Robertson, M. J. and Giller, K. E. (2010). Risk analysis of maize–legume crop combinations with smallholder farmers varying in resource endowment in central Malawi. Experimental Agriculture 46:121.
Kanyama-Phiri, G., Snapp, S., Kamanga, B. and Wellard, K. (2000). Towards integrated soil fertility management in Malawi: incorporating participatory approaches in agricultural research. Managing African Soils No. 11. Nottingham, UK: Russell Press.
Kanyama-Phiri, G. Y., Wellard, K. and Snapp, S. S. (2008). Introduction: agriculture systems in context. In Agricultural Systems, Agroecology and Rural Innovations for Development, 127 (Eds Snapp, S. S. and Pound, B.). Burlington, MA: Academic Press.
Keating, B. A., Carberry, P. S., Hammer, G. L., Probert, M. E., Robertson, M. J., Holzworth, D., Huth, N. I., Hargreaves, J. N. G., Meinke, H., Hochman, Z., McLean, G., Verburg, K., Snow, V., Dimes, J. P., Silburn, M., Wang, E., Brown, S., Bristow, K. L., Asseng, S., Chapman, S., McCown, R. L., Freebairn, D. M. and Smith, C. J. (2003). An overview of APSIM, a model designed for farming systems simulation. European Journal of Agronomy 18:267288.
Kumwenda, J. D. T., Waddington, S. R., Snapp, S. S., Jones, R. B. and Blackie, M. J. (1996). Soil fertility management research for maize cropping systems of smallholder farmers in southern Africa: a review. Natural Resources Group Paper 96-02. México, DF: CIMMYT.
Mangisoni, J. H. (2000). Economic efficiency and investment potential in the smallholder crop sector in Malawi. International Journal of Social Economics 27:968979.
Mushayi, P. T., Waddington, S. R. and Chiduza, C. (1999). Low efficiency of nitrogen use by maize on smallholder farms in sub-humid Zimbabwe. In Maize Production Technology for the Future: Challenges and Opportunities. Proceedings of the Sixth Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Maize Conference. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: CIMMYT and the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, 278281.
Mwangi, W. (1996). Low use of fertilizers and low productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 47:135147.
National Statistics Office (2009). CountryStat Malawi, Livestock Production. Zomba, Malawi, Available at: http://www.nso.malawi.net.
Ncube, B., Dimes, J. P., van Wijk, M. T., Twomlow, S. J. and Giller, K. E. (2009). Productivity and residual benefits of grain legumes to sorghum under semi-arid conditions in southwestern Zimbabwe: unravelling the effects of water and nitrogen using a simulation model. Field Crops Research 110:173184.
Nhlane, W. G. (2001). Preliminary evaluation of flint maize hybrids in Malawi. In Agricultural Technologies for Sustainable Development in Malawi. Proceedings of the First Annual Scientific Conference held at Malawi Institute of Management (MIM), 6–10 November 2001, Lilongwe, Malawi, 2427 (Eds Phiri, I. M. G., Saka, A. R. and Chilembwe, E. H. C.). Lilongwe, Malawi: Malawi Institute of Management.
Nziguheba, G., Merckx, R. and Palm, C. (2002). Soil phosphorus dynamics and maize responses to different rates of phosphorus fertiliser applied to an Acrisol in western Kenya. Plant and Soil 243:110.
Okalebo, J. R., Gathua, K. W. and Woomer, P. L. (1993). Laboratory Methods of Soil and Plant Analysis: A Working Manual. Nairobi, Kenya: TSBF.
Onken, A. B. and Wendt, C. W. (1989). Soil fertility management and water relationships. In Soil, Crop and Water Management Systems for Rainfed Agriculture in the Sudano–Sahelian Zone. Proceedings of an International Workshop, 11–16 January 1987. Niamey, Niger: ICRISAT Sahelian Center, 99105.
Pircher, T., Almekinders, C. J. M. and Kamanga, B. C. G. (2013). Participatory trials and farmers’ social realities: understanding the adoption of legume technologies in a Malawian farmer community. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 11:252263.
Robertson, M., Benson, T. and Shamudzarira, Z. (2000). Simulating nitrogen fertilizer response in low-input farming systems of Malawi. 1. Validation of crop response. Risk Management Working Paper Series 00/01. México, DF: CIMMYT.
Robertson, M. J., Sakala, W., Benson, T. and Shamudzarira, Z. (2005). Simulating response of maize to previous velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) crop and nitrogen fertiliser in Malawi. Field Crops Research 91:91105.
Sanchez, P. A. (2002). Soil fertility and hunger in Africa. Science 295:20192020.
Sauer, J. and Tchale, H. (2009). The economics of soil fertility management in Malawi. Review of Agricultural Economics 31:535560.
Shamudzarira, Z. and Robertson, M. J. (2002). Simulating the response of maize to nitrogen fertiliser in semi-arid Zimbabwe. Experimental Agriculture 38:7996.
Shamudzarira, Z., Waddington, S., Robertson, M., Keating, B., Mushayi, P., Chiduza, C., Grace, P. and Carberry, P. (2000). Simulating N fertiliser response in low-input farming systems 1. Fertiliser recovery and crop response. 2. Effects of weed competition. Risk Management Working Paper Series 00/05. México, DF: CIMMYT.
Snapp, S. S., Blackie, M. J., Gilbert, R. A., Bezner-Kerr, R. and Kanyama-Phiri, G. Y. (2010). Biodiversity can support a greener revolution in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107:2084020845.
Snapp, S. S., Borden, H. and Rohrbach, D. D. (2002). Improving nitrogen efficiency: lessons from Malawi and Michigan. In Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection. Second International Nitrogen Conference, Potomac MD, USA, 4248 (Eds Galloway, J., Cowling, E., Erisman, J. W., Wisniewski, J. and Jordan, C.). Lisse, The Netherlands: A.A. Balkema Publishers.
Tittonell, P., Zingore, S., van Wijk, M. T., Corbeels, M. and Giller, K. E. (2007). Nutrient use efficiencies and crop responses to N, P and manure applications in Zimbabwean soils: exploring management strategies across soil fertility gradients. Field Crops Research 100:348368.
Wendt, J. W. (1993). Evaluation of Mehlich-3 Extraction for Upland Malawi Soils. Lilongwe, Malawi: Chitedze Research Station.
Wendt, J. W. and Jones, R. B. (1997). Evaluation of the efficacy of Malawi Tundulu phosphate rock for maize production. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 48:161170.
Whitbread, A. M., Jiri, O. and Maasdorp, B. (2004a). The effect of managing improved fallows of Mucuna pruriens on maize production and soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics in sub-humid Zimbabwe. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 69:5971.
Whitbread, A., Mushayi, P. and Waddington, S. (2004b). Modelling the effect of phosphorus on maize production and nitrogen use efficiency on smallholder farms in sub-humid Zimbabwe. In New Directions for a Diverse Planet: Proceedings for the 4th International Crop Science Congress, Brisbane, Australia, 26 September–1 October 2004 (Eds Fischer, T., Turner, N., Angus, J., McIntyre, L., Robertson, M., Borrell, A. and Lloyd, D.). Gosford NSW, Australia: The Regional Institute Ltd. Available at: http://www.cropscience.org.au/icsc2004/.
Whiteside, M. (2000). Ganyu labour in Malawi and its implications for livelihood security interventions – an analysis of recent literature and implications for poverty alleviation. Agricultural Research and Extension Network, Network paper 99.

IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY OF USE OF SMALL AMOUNTS OF NITROGEN AND PHOSPHORUS FERTILISER ON SMALLHOLDER MAIZE IN CENTRAL MALAWI

  • B. C. G. KAMANGA (a1) (a2), S. R. WADDINGTON (a3), A. M. WHITBREAD (a4), C. J. M. ALMEKINDERS (a1) and K. E. GILLER (a2)...

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed