Economics of Maize and Bean Production: Why Farmers need to Shift to Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Production
Keywords:Conservation agriculture, Crop rotation system, Dry bean production, Fertilizer application, Maize production
AbstractMaize and dry bean are the most important food crops that feed over 85% of Kenyan households. However, the productivity of these crops is low due to the high costs of land preparation and weed control, soil infertility and limited soil moisture under the current conventional tillage system of production. A study was carried in Embu County and Kirinyaga County to determine the economic returns of a maize-bean rotation system under different tillage systems and fertilizer regimes. Maize was produced during the long rains under no-till with crop residue retention (NT+CR) and conventional tillage with no crop residue retention (CT-CR) and inorganic fertilizer regimes (NK, NP, PK, NPK, and NPK+CaMgZnBS). Dry bean was planted in the short rains in the same plots where maize under different nutrient management regimes and tillage systems had been grown and harvested. The trial was laid out in a split-plot design with the tillage method as the main plot and fertilizer as sub-plot. Economic performance was assessed using partial budget analysis based on labor data and prices of all inputs used during the production period. Grain yields were reduced by 10% to reflect farmers‘ yield levels. Maize and dry bean grains were sold at the prevailing farm gate prices. Results showed that maize-bean rotation was KE 22,718 cheaper under no-till with crop residue retention (NT+CR) than under conventional tillage with no crop residue retention (CT-CR). On average, NT+CR recorded KE 29,569 higher net benefit than CT-CR. The NT+CR tillage recorded a benefit to cost ratio of 3.7 compared to 2.7 recorded under CT-CR tillage system. The NT+CR with NK combined was the most profitable treatment with a benefit to cost ratio of 4.92 for maize and 4.33 for maize-bean rotation system. Based on this research, combination of no-till with crop residue retention has the potential to improve economic status and alleviate poverty among resource-constrained farmers.
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