Screening Cover Crops for Soil Macrofauna Abundance and Diversity in Conservation Agriculture

  •  Mutondwa Phophi    
  •  Paramu Mafongoya    
  •  Alfred Odindo    
  •  Lembe Magwaza    


Soil health is important for sustainable crop production. Frequent soil cultivation has a negative impact on soil health, resulting in loss of soil macrofauna. Conservation agriculture can be practiced to improve soil health by improving the abundance of soil macrofauna. Three leguminous cover crops were tested for soil macrofauna abundance Vigna unguiculata, (cowpea) Lablab purpureus L. (dolichos lablab) and Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC (velvet bean). The experiment was done in two contrasting experimental sites of KwaZulu-Natal (Ukulinga and Bergville) in a randomised complete block design replicated three times. Bare plot and herbicide treatments served as controls. Natural fallow was used to make a comparison to all the other treatments. Cowpea (39 species) had the highest soil macrofauna abundance in Bergville. Lablab (57 species) had the highest soil macrofauna in Ukulinga. Cowpea (0.75 species) and lablab (0.61 species) improved soil macrofauna diversity respectively in Bergville. Natural fallow (0.46 species) had the lowest soil macrofauna diversity in Bergville. Lablab (0.56 species) and velvet bean (0.74 species) had high soil macrofauna species diversity in Ukulinga. Bare plot (0.3 species) had the lowest soil macrofauna species diversity respectively. It can be concluded that cowpea and lablab can be recommended for improving soil macrofauna abundance in conservation agriculture.

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