The potential of Faidherbia albida (F. albida) for improving soil quality and yield levels of maize under dry land agriculture in Zambia

The main hypothesis of this research is that continuation of current low input agricultural practices in maize based systems will lead to further soil degradation (chemical, physical and biological) and ultimately in continued low (and further decreasing) maize yields. The main alternative hypotheses of this research are related to improved agricultural practices based on the use of Faidherbia albida (F. albida) in maize fields.

The overall objective of the research is to investigate the effect of F. albida on soil quality and maize yield levels on fields under the tree canopies from selected areas in Zambia. The following activities are being conducted to address specific objectives:

  1. Foliar litter fall quantification and nutrient addition under F. albida canopies: Under the canopy of each tree, three [3] litter traps have been installed to collect litter. This is being done to quantify the amount of litter and nutrients (NPK) added by the tree annually.
  2. Grain and biomass yield levels of maize under canopies of F. albida: Maize field experiments have been set up in three locations with F. albida trees of varying ages in central Zambia to determine maize grain and biomass yield.
  3. Soil quality experiment: Representative soil samples from under and outside the canopy of F. albida trees were collected from five (5) locations in Zambia and characterized for selected chemical and physical properties. To assess Nitrogen mineralization dynamics and soil quality, an incubation experiment has been set up to determine: (i) N mineralization, (ii) microbial biomass carbon, (iii) soil microbial community structure, and (iv) enzyme activity – Dehydrogenase and Beta-Glucosaminidase.
  4. Assessment of in-situ N and K evolution: Layers (20 cm) of soil samples will be collected down the soil profile (1 m) under F. albida canopy during the rainy season (agriculture season) to determine N and K concentration.
  5. Contribution and stability of carbon from F. albida litter in maize fields under dryland agriculture: Representative soil samples from maize fields under F. albida canopies in five (5) locations in Zambia will be collected. This will be used to determine the relative contribution of maize and F. albida to SOM build up by using 13C profiles of SOC.

Researcher: MSc. Jones Yengwe
Period : 2012-2016
Financing body : VLIR-UOS
Promoter : Prof. Stefaan De Neve