Screening Cover Crops for Weed Suppression in Conservation Agriculture

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


The use of herbicides amongst smallholder farmers is minimal because herbicides are expensive and they require specialized application equipments. Weeds are problematic in conservation agriculture where herbicides are expensive for smallholder farmers. The use of cover crops can help to suppress weed growth and development by creating an environment which is not suitable for weeds survival. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp) dolichos lablab (Lablab purpureus L.) and velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC) were evaluated for biomass accumulation and weed suppression under conservation agriculture system in two contrasting experimental sites: Ukulinga and Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal. Bare plot and herbicide treatments served as controls. Treatments were laid in a randomized complete block design, replicated three times. Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC had the highest biomass accumulation in both sites Bergville (0.72 t/ha) and Ukulinga (1.59 t/ha). Cowpea had the lowest biomass accumulation in Bergville (0.59 t/ha) and lablab was the lowest in Ukulinga (0.88 t/ha). Lablab was effective in suppressing weed biomass in Bergville (P < 0.05). Cowpea performed best in suppressing weed biomass in Ukulinga (P < 0.05). The results suggest that cowpea and lablab can be effective for weed suppression and therefore can be recommended for use in conservation agricultural systems.

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