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Intercropping Maize and Pigeon Pea

Researchers in this GCFSI center-led project are studying the impact of intercropping maize with pigeon pea, with the goal of improving soil quality and crop yields.

Project Team: Sieglinde S. Snapp and Thomas S. Jayne

Snapp_CRM.jpgMaize fields dominate rural landscapes across southern and eastern Africa, and they produce highly variable grain yields. High yield potential is rarely achieved, fertilizer response is often low, and risk of crop failure an ever-present worry whenever there is a dry spell or excessive rain.

Diversifying maize with pigeon pea has shown considerable promise as a means to integrate a multipurpose species that produces food, fodder, fuel and fertilizer. Pigeon pea systems, including modern varieties intercropped with maize, and doubled-up production of pigeon pea with soybean and groundnut, can be adopted by smallholder farmers in tandem with improved maize and fertilizer.

Maize-pigeon pea systems have been shown to enhance profitable response to inputs, in dry years as well as wet. GCFSI research conducted in 2015 found multiple lines of evidence that pigeon pea and doubled up legume (pigeon pea-groundnut mixtures) are innovative means to improve access to protein-rich crops, and to enhance soil fertility.

The government of Malawi just released doubled-up legumes as a technology for soil improvement and climate change resilience. This research team is investigating how to enhance adoption and understand farmer experimentation and investments in fertilizers, as well as improved seed of maize, pigeon pea, and bean systems, since each factor has previously been studied in isolation.

With support from GCFSI, the team has begun visiting farm households in Tanzania to conduct a follow-on survey, expand the research in Malawi, and analyze organic matter fractions in soil samples. This adds value to USAID/BFS-supported Africa RISING agronomic research, and to research underway by the Food Security Policy Innovation Lab. The panel dataset thereby created will provide unique insights into the drivers of maize response to fertilizer and farmer adoption. This is the foundation for more sustainable and resilient production systems for staple crops in Africa.