Experts have advised farmers on ideal situation for intercropping leguminous with non-leguminous crops so as to enhance the fertility of the soil and get maximum yield on the farm.
An agronomist, Alhaji Kabir R. Charanchi who has decades of experience in the field said that some farmers plant legumes in between the stems of the cereal crops on the same ridge leaving a space of 4m in between stands of cereal crop.
However, with extension interventions and innovations being introduced through demonstrations, farmers are now picking a better planting ratio of 2:2 or 2:3 depending on what the farmer hopes to achieve.
The expert explained that the ratio of cropping pattern could also be 1:1 i.e. one ridge of leguminous crops and one ridge of non-leguminous crops.
On the advantages of intercropping, Alhaji Kabir pointed out that the strategy of intercropping is to have a natural way of fertilising the soil and to have a symbiotic relationship between the crops.
He revealed that cowpea naturally fixes Nitrogen in the soil through a process from the atmosphere because they have root nodules which do a lot in fixation of Nitrogen.
“So this reduces the cost of fertiliser, and also enhances moisture retention because cowpea is a cover crop that spreads its leaves on the soil and also the leaves would fall, decay and decompose to form humus part of the soil,” he said.
The expert disclosed that although mono-cropping of maize gives the farmer more yield, it requires a lot of fertiliser, about 10 bags to 12 bags of fertiliser NPK and urea per hectare at different times.
“The yield advantage obviously is where you have a mono crop but the cost of production would also be very high. The operational costs would be high in mono crop farm because the fertiliser requirement would be higher there,
“I worked last year with WACOT, so even on cost analysis you need N130, 000 to N140, 000 per hectare that includes the cost of fertiliser to produce a hectare of mono crop farm in Katsina state,” he confirmed.
Charanchi said that the relative advantage sets in when the financial status of the farmer was considered, “Not every farmer at a certain period can boast of even N80, 000 not to talk more of N130, 000, they have no option,
“So that’s why they can’t go into that production because they don’t have the money. Even though government is subsidising fertiliser not every farmer can afford to buy,” he said.
Although more yield is obtained in mono-cropping whether in the northern or southern part of the country because of the higher planting density as you can get up to 53,000 to 55,000 stands per hectare in maize.
He said that in extreme parts of the north, the yield of maize due to rainfall limitation is 2 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes per hectare. But in areas like Musawa and Funtua axis where is a bit wetter, at farmer level you could get up to 3.5 tonnes per hectare.
He noted that the decline in yield per hectare was a direct effect of climate change with the constant dry spells, shortage of rainfall and fluctuations in rainfall pattern.
He gave an example with farmers in Batsari area of Katsina state, who intercrop millet and sweet potato cuttings noting that per hectare, a farmer could harvest up to 100 bundles of grains which is approximately 2.5 tonnes of millet per hectare and about hundred bags of sweet potato.