Long-term effects of fallow systems and lengths on crop production and soil fertility maintenance in West Africa

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This article analyzes the results of a twelve year farm trial in West Africa examining the transition from shifting cultivation using a natural vegetation fallow, a leguminous cover crop fallow, and an woody alley crop fallow. The research determines that the cover crop and the alley crop fallows offer superior performance after one year. The cover crop is effective in increasing maize yield while the alley crop makes a more substantive contribution to soil organic carbon. If allowing a two year fallow, the natural vegetation also restores productivity and soil carbon. Thus, the paper provides evidence for farmers to pursue a cover cropping or alley cropping as an a more immediately productive return for a fallowed system in West Africa.


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Conservation agriculture, Soil degradation, Soil management, Soil fertility, Soil quality, Soil organic matter, Shifting cultivation, West Africa, Cover crops, Crop yields, Fallow, Long-term trial, Nigeria, Soil fertility, Woody species, Field Scale


Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 71(2): 139-150