Maize (Zea mays L.) is a major staple food in Malawi. However, low soil fertility resulting from low and inappropriate use of fertilizer practices, continuous monocropping and inappropriate crop residues management coupled with limited resources and droughts keep yields low. This had led to a quest for sustainable solutions such as maize-legume intercropping or rotation including more efficient use of crop residues in smallholder farming systems. Innovation platforms (IP) built around learning centres (LC) located on smallholder farmers’ fields in target locations were used as an approach to disseminate integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) technologies and build capacity of farmers, extension staff and other stakeholders. Rotating maize with either groundnut or groundnut intercropped with pigeonpea increased maize grain yield (3678 and 3071 kg ha-1 respectively) compared to sole maize (2260 kg ha-1). These preliminary findings were linked to farmer assessment of technologies where farmers participating in the LCs expressed strong interest in the maize legume rotation technologies. Associated farmer field days outlined constraints underlying technology choice, information that is not usually considered in conjunction with on-farm experimentation. Although, the legumes were highly productive, farmers expressed worries about legume seed availability, disease incidences, weeds infestations and livestock damage. Participating farmers commonly manage residues by burning. Promotion and experimentation with more efficient use of legume residues have shown short-term positive impacts in efforts to promote scaling-out of best fit legume technologies. This study reports the value of multi-stakeholder partnering in scaling-out and evaluation of best fit legume technologies and adoption constraints.
Key words: Maize, integrated soil fertility management, innovation platforms, learning centres, legume technologies.
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