A study was conducted at the Livingstonia plateau in Rumphi district in northern Malawi to estimate maize yield gaps through the analysis of soil nutrients during the 2018/2019 growing season. Soil analysis was done for one hundred and fifty soil samples collected from the depth of 0 – 100 at an interval of 20 cm at the top, middle and bottom landscapes of the plateau. Soil nutrients analysis was done at the Ministry of Agriculture Lunyangwa Research Station following appropriate methods. Variables were weeding (no weeding and weeding twice) and fertiliser N application (0 or 22.5 kg N ha-1). Measurements for grain yield of maize were done in a uniform plot of 10 x 10 m from participating fields in each landscape position. Results showed that soil nutrients varied across the slopes, with the bottom slopes having higher values of the nitrogen (0.1 %) than those on the top (0.05 %). These variations showed varying maize grain yield responses of 0.8 t ha-1 and 0.5 t ha-1 for no fertiliser but weeded and not weeded fields and 1.6 t ha-1 and 1 t ha-1 for fertilised but weeded and not weeded fields, respectively. Maize grain yield gaps were higher (4.4 t ha-1) in landscape position 1 than they were in landscape position 3 (4.0 t ha-1) for the no fertiliser and weeded fields, whereas (3.6 t ha-1) and (3.1 t ha-1) for the fertilised and weeded fields. Working closely with farmers on specific soil and fertiliser management practices for improved crop production is critical.
Keywords: Lab quest, landscape, maize yield gap, nutrients, soil samples, slope