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Combining hill-placed manure and mineral fertilizer enhances maize productivity and profitability in northern Benin


Throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), maize production is characterized by low productivity due to the scarce availability and use of external inputs and recurrent droughts exacerbated by climate variability. Within the integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) framework, there is thus a need for optimizing the application of fertilizers and manure to better use the limited nutrient resources and increase crop yield and farmer income. An on-station experiment was conducted in Northern Benin over a 4-year period to evaluate the effect of hill placement of mineral fertilizer and manure on maize yields and soil chemical properties. The treatments consisted in the combination of three rates of manure (0 (NM), 3 (3M) and 6 (6M) Mg ha−1) and three levels of fertilizer (0% (NF), 50% (50F) and 100% (100F) of the rate recommended by extension (76 kg N + 13.1 kg P + 24.9 K ha−1)). On average across the fertilizer rates, hill-placement of manure significantly improved soil organic carbon content, available P and exchangeable K after 4 years by up to 124, 166 and 77%, respectively, compared to the initial values. As a result of the nutrient inputs and improved soil properties, yields increased steadily over time for all manure and fertilizer combinations. Value-cost ratios and benefit–cost ratios were >2 and generally as good or even better for treatments involving 50F compared to NF or 100F. Although applying half the recommended rate of fertilizer without manure as currently done by many farmers appears to make economic sense, this practice is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. Substituting 50F for 3M or complementing 50F with 3M are two possible strategies that are compatible with the precepts of ISFM and provide returns on investment at least as good as the current practice. However, this will require greater manure production, made possible in part by the increased stover yields, and access to means of transportation to deliver the manure to the fields.