Influence of Organic Based Technologies on Soil Nutrient Status in Semi-Arid Yatta Sub-County, Kenya

  •  R. N. Onwonga    
  •  N. L. Namoi    
  •  J. J. Lelei    


Declining soil fertility is the main cause of low and uncertain yields of sorghum and cassava traditional crops in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. Against this backdrop, this study investigated the effect of organic based technologies; application of organic fertilizers and integration of legumes in cassava and sorghum based cropping systems on soil chemical properties (Organic C, N, P and K). Field experiments were conducted in Katangi and Ikombe divisions of Yatta sub-County, Kenya during the short rain seasons (SRS) of 2010 and 2011 and long rain seasons (LRS) of 2011 and 2012. A randomised complete block design with a split plot arrangement was used. The main plots were three cropping systems: (i) intercropping (dolichos/cassava, dolichos/sorghum, pigeon pea/sorghum and pigeon pea/cassava); (ii) rotation (dolichos-cassava, dolichos-sorghum, pigeon pea-cassava and pigeon pea-sorghum); (iii) monocrop (cassava and sorghum). The split plots were organic fertilizers; Farm Yard manure (FYM), compost and control -no organic fertilizer added. Sorghum/dolichos+FYM had highest soil OC in LRS of 2011 at both sites and SRS of 2011 and 2010 at Katangi and Ikombe respectively. Cassava/dolichos+FYM had the highest soil OC in the SRS of 2011 and LRS of 2012 and 2011 at both sites. Sorghum/dolichos+FYM had highest soil N in LRS and SRS of 2011 in Katangi. Cassava-dolichos rotation accumulated highest soil N in SRS of 2010 and LRS of 2011 at both sites. Sorghum/dolichos intercrop accumulated higher soil P during the LRS of 2012 at both sites; and SRS of 2010 and LRS of 2011 in Katangi and Ikombe respectively. Cassava/dolichos intercrop produced higher soil P during the SRS of 2010 at both sites; and LRS of 2011 and SRS of 2011 in Katangi and Ikombe respectively. Higher soil K was observed under sorghum/dolichos intercrop in SRS of 2010 at both sites and LRS of 2011, SRS of 2011 and LRS of 2012 in Ikombe. Cassava/dolichos intercrop also had higher soil K during SRS of 2010, LRS of 2011 at both sites; LRS of 2012 at Katangi and SRS of 2011 at Ikombe. Application of FYM to sorghum/dolichos and cassava/pigeon pea intercrops is therefore a viable and sustainable trajectory to enhanced organic C and NPK levels in smallholder farming systems.

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