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Effects of intercropping and fertilizer application on the yield and nutritive value of maize and amaranth forages in Nigeria

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Maize and amaranth forages, produced during the wet season, have the potential to bridge the gap in forage supply to ruminants during the dry season in Nigeria. In two growing seasons (2006 and 2007), effects of intercropping and fertilizer application on dry matter (DM) yield and chemical composition of forages, and land use efficiency, were studied in two experiments. The digestibility of sun-dried or ensiled maize, amaranth or maize–amaranth mixtures was measured using West African dwarf sheep in a third experiment. Maize showed a higher response to fertilizer application than amaranth or maize–amaranth mixtures. With fertilizer application, DM yield varied significantly (P <0·05) between species and intercropped mixtures. Dry matter yield ranged from 7·1 (amaranth) to 12·6 t ha−1 (maize) in 2006 and 6·9 (amaranth) to 11·3 t ha−1 (70:30 maize–amaranth population mixture) in 2007. Crude protein (CP) concentration of whole plants ranged from 99·0 (maize) to 227·0 g kg−1 DM (amaranth). Dry matter digestibility values of sun-dried maize, sun-dried maize:amaranth 50:50 mixture, sun-dried amaranth, ensiled maize, ensiled maize:amaranth 50:50 mixture and ensiled amaranth were 0·718, 0·607, 0·573, 0·737, 0·553 and 0·526 respectively. Intercropping increased forage yield and land use efficiency compared to amaranth but had no yield advantage over maize. Although DM digestibility of maize was higher than that of amaranth or the maize:amaranth mixture, digestible CP yield ha−1 was higher with amaranth in the cropping mixture, showing that amaranth could complement maize in systems where CP is the limiting factor to livestock production.
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Keywords: amaranth; dry season; fertilizer; forage; intercropping; maize; sheep

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Animal Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria 2: Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Ado-Ekiti, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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