Weed management with cover crops in maize (Zea mays) at Machakos and Makueni District - African Crop Science Society : 2011 - p. 116
In semi-arid regions of Kenya, unreliable rainfall, flush floods and recurrent droughts continue to be major issues in crop production. In Machakos district, smallholder farmers grow maize, beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava and sweet potato in a mixed cropping system. Maize (Zea mays L.) is the staple food crop. Average yields are relatively low (0.5-1.0 t ha-1) in long rains and (1.2-1.8 t ha-1) in short rain season compared to an average potential yield of 4.5-7.0 t ha-1. Most farmers are subsistence and food insecure eight months annually. The government intervenes by supplying hunger relief food locally known as ¨Dmworio¡¬. The current change in climate from global warming is further exacerbating the drought problem. Weed composition also has changed probably in adaptation to the climate or management practices. Weeds compete with maize. In addition maize is known to be more tolerant to drought in a weed free environment than in weedy conditions. Conservation Agriculture (CA) using cover crops was introduced to mitigate by managing weeds, covering and improving soil to increase maize productivity and hence secure food. Though conservation agriculture showed potential to increase yield three times over the farmers practice, there is limited information on adoption of cover crops. A survey was conducted to gather baseline information, determine adoption levels and factors influencing decisions concerning use of cover crop technologies in Kalama division, Machakos, a region where the technology had been introduced and in Kee a region earmarked for up-scaling of CA. A sample of 80 farmers 45 males and 35 females was obtained as key informers from 14 sub-locations and 26 villages to participate in the study. Data were obtained from sample farmers using interviews and structured questionnaire. Data collected were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Socio-Scientists (SPSS) to determine the factors which influenced adoption of cover crops. Results from the survey showed that knowledge and socio-economic status of farmers determine adoption levels. Capacity building through group demonstrations was the most significant factor influencing adoption. However, access to seeds was a constraint. Most farmers sourced their seeds from local market, while others used government donated drought relief seeds and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Seeds. Enhancing capacity building through on-farm demonstrations and improved technology dissemination including farmer field days, local access to preferred seeds and information on seed sources (information Kiosk) would increase adoption of high yielding drought tolerant cover crops to improve maize productivity.