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Termite damage to maize grown in agroforestry systems, traditional fallows and monoculture on nitrogen-limited soils in eastern Zambia

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1 Termites cause significant damage to maize and other crops in southern Africa. Several studies were conducted with the objective of determining the difference in termite damage to maize in various land use systems between monoculture maize, maize grown using traditional fallows and improved fallows.

2 In an experiment conducted at four sites on noncoppicing fallows, maize planted after Tephrosia candida 02971 fallows had lower termite damage compared with fully fertilized monoculture maize. However, the termite suppression was not low enough to warrant rotation of noncoppicing fallows for termite management..

3 In four experiments comparing termite damage to maize grown in monoculture and in coppicing fallows, fully fertilized monoculture maize had a higher percentage of lodged plants compared with maize grown in pure Leucaena leucocephala, Gliricidia sepium and Acacia anguistissima fallows or in a mixture of A. anguistissima + Sesbania sesban or Tephrosia vogelii + S. sesban.

4 More than 50–75% of the variance in maize yield was explained by preseason inorganic nitrogen and termite damage. However, termite damage to maize was not influenced by inorganic nitrogen, which represents nitrogen readily available to maize. The decomposition rate of biomass (related to lignin + polyphenol to nitrogen ratio) and water retention under fallows also appeared to influence termite damage.

5 It is concluded that maize grown in L. leucocephala, G. sepium, A. anguistissima and S. sesban fallows suffers less termite damage and produces maize yields comparable with conventionally tilled and fully fertilized monoculture maize.
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Keywords: Improved fallows; organic matter quality; termites

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: SDC-ICRAF Regional Office, Mount Pleasant, PO Box MP 163, Harare, Zimbabwe and 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Zambia, PO Box 3237, Lusaka, Zambia

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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