Improved fallows of Sesbania sesban (Sesbania) have been known to improve soil physical and chemical properties and increase crop yield compared to traditional fallows. However, the effects of soil tillage practices after improved fallows on soil properties, weeds, labour and subsequent maize crop has not been assessed in Southern Africa. This study aimed to evaluate how tillage practices affect yield of maize and affect soil properties after two years of fallow and subsequent cropping phase. In this study, done at sites in eastern Zambia, maize yield from a two-year planted Sesbania, natural fallow, continuously fertilized and unfertilized maize were compared under conventional, flat till and zero tillage practices. A split plot experiment, with improved fallow systems in the main plot and the tillage practice in the subplot, was established at the sites. The results showed that the increases in grain yield under conventional tillage over zero tillage practice were 17.8 and 28.2% during 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 seasons, respectively, at Msekera. At Chadiza, the increases in grain yield under conventional tillage over zero tillage were 66.3 and 327.4% during 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 seasons, respectively. Greater maize yields were achieved under Sesbania planted fallows compared to the natural fallow and maize monoculture without fertilizer. Overall, zero tillage practice resulted in lower maize grain yield, higher bulk density, reduced water intake, higher weed infestation and high labour demand during weeding compared to conventional tillage.
Key words: Conventional tillage, flat till, grain yield, water intake, weeds, zero tillage.
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