Drought and low soil fertility underlie the main constraints to maize productivity in Malawi. As such, an experiment was conducted at Lifuwu Agricultural Research Station in Malawi during the 2016 dry season under furrow irrigation to assess the effect of goat manure application and drought on growth and grain yield of a hybrid DKC8053 variety and a synthetic ZM523 variety. These varieties have the same range of maturity period of 110 to 130 days and are termed as drought and low N tolerant. Manure application rates were 0, 5 and 10 t ha-1 and were halved for both basal and top dressing. Application of manure reduced the adverse effects of drought both on growth and grain yield of maize. Growth and grain yield for both varieties highly significantly (p<.001) decreased without manure application, with more adverse effect on DKC8053, 89.60 cm and 1060 kg ha-1, respectively, than ZM523 with 96.48 cm and 2140 kg ha-1 respectively. However, with manure application of 5 and 10 t ha-1, maize plant growth highly significantly (p<.001) increased from 89.60 to 251 cm. Under water stress treatments, ZM523 had 5% greater height (155.63 cm) than DKC8053 (141.53 cm), which had a greater height under well watered, well fertilized treatments (251.55 cm). Application of manure was also consistent for increased maize grain yield from 1060 to 8882 kg ha-1. ZM523 (8521 kg ha-1) had more increased grain yield than DKC8053 (7234 kg ha-1) when water stressed, but the two varieties performed similarly, 8661 and 8882 kg ha-1, respectively, under well watered, well fertilized treatments. Therefore, maize varieties ZM523 and DKC8053 yielded better under manure application than without, as manure help conserve water holding capacity.
Keywords: Organic manure, drought, low soil fertility, DKC8053, ZM523