Guidelines for Integration of Legumes into the Farming Systems of East African Highlands

  • Amede T
  • Kirkby R
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The “land fragmentation” that so concerns agricultural interests may, in fact, benefit native ecotype conservation and wider use, since new landowners are more concerned with return of Texas flora and fauna than with economic return from the land.Grain legumes are major protein sources for animals and humans. Given that farmers export both grain and stover from the fields, the amount of residue left to the soil is too small to have a profound effect on soil fertility. Participatory research was conducted to evaluate the performance of six legume cover crops (Vetch, Stylosanthus, Crotalaria, Mucuna, Canavalia, and Tephrosia) and two food crops (Pea and Common bean) in southern Ethiopian Highlands, one of the African Highlands Initiative (AHI) sites called Areka, to be used for soil fertility improvement. Besides evaluating the biomass productivity of legumes, the objective of this research was to learn about the perception of farmers to LCC, feed and food legumes, to identify socio-economic factors affecting adoption and also to identify potential niches for their integration. For short term fallow (three months or less), Crotalaria gave significantly higher biomass yield (4.2 t ha -1followed by Vetch and Mucuna (2 t ha -1 ), while for medium- term fallow (six months or more) Tephrosia was the best performing species (13.5 t ha -1 ) followed by Crotalaria (8.5 t ha -1 ). The selection criterion of farmers was far beyond biomass production, and differed from the selection criteria of researchers. Farmers identified firm root system, early soil cover, biomass yield, decomposition rate, soil moisture conservation, drought resistance and feed value as important biophysical criteria. Soil moisture conservation was mentioned as one important criterion and decreased in order of Mucuna (22.8%), Vetch (20.8 %), Stylosanthus (20.2 %), bare soil (17.1 %), Crotalaria (14 %), Canavalia (14 %) and Tephrosia (11.9 %), respectively. The overall sum of farmers’ ranking showed that Mucuna followed by Croletaria are potentially fitting species. However, Vetch was the most preferred legume by farmers regardless of low biomass, due to its’ early growth, high feed value and fast decomposition when incorporated into the soil. The most important socio- economic criteria of farmers for decision-making on which legumes to integrate into their temporal & spatial niches of the system were land productivity, farm size, land ownership, access to market and need for livestock feed. These indicators were used for the development of draft decision guides for integration of legumes into multiple cropping systems of East African Highlands.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Participatory research
  • decision-guide
  • integration
  • legume cover crops
  • soil degradation

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  • T Amede

  • R Kirkby

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