Farmer evaluation of phosphorus fertilizer application to annual legumes in Chisepo, Central Malawi

Kamanga, B.C.G.; Whitbread, A.M.; Wall, P.; Waddington, S.R.; Almekinders, C.J.M.; Giller, K.E.


Building from the perception that farmers have an intimate knowledge of their local environment, production problems, crop priorities and criteria for evaluation, an on-farm experiment was conducted with farmers in 2003/4 in Chisepo, central Malawi, to evaluate the response of six annual legumes to phosphorus (P) (20 kg P ha-1 or no P fertilizer) application. The legumes were velvet bean, pigeonpea, soyabean, groundnut, bunch-type cowpea and Bambara groundnut. Twelve farmers hosted the experiments and each farmer formed a group of at least 4 other farmers to evaluate the legumes. Farmer participatory monitoring and evaluation of the legume and P combinations was conducted during the experiment to determine farmer preferences and acceptance of the technology. Measured grain yields, returns to labour and total costs of the P-fertilized legumes were compared with those for the unfertilized legumes. The application of P fertilizer significantly (P = 0.05) increased legume grain yields, particularly with velvet bean, and soyabean. However, use of P was not financially attractive and farmers were not interested to use P at the time. Farmers were more interested to maximize legume food production from their labour investment. Soyabean, groundnut and pigeonpea, grain legumes with high value as food, were considered to be priority crops by farmers over velvet bean, cowpea and Bambara groundnut