Restoring soil nutrient stocks using local inputs, tillage and sorghum-green gram intercropping strategies for drylands in Eastern Kenya
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Soil macronutrient and micronutrient availability is particularly critical in semi-arid agro- ecological zones that are characterized by poor soil fertility and low rainfall regimes. An experiment was initiated in Siakago, Embu County to investigate the effects of tied-ridges, conventional tillage and input applications on soil nutrient fertility using a randomized complete block design with a split-split plot arrangement for 4 seasons (2018–2021). The treatments comprised of two main plot tillage systems, three cropping systems allocated to the sub-plots and four soil input management treatments assigned to sub-sub plots. ANOVA was used to test the effects of different treatments including tillage, crop system and soil fertility management using Genstat software. The data was also subjected to Principal Component Analysis procedures using R ("FactoMineR" and "factoextra") to examine the inter-relationship patterns between different soil fertility parameters and to reduce the data into independent soil fertility components. There were significant main effects due to crop system (Soil Mn), tillage and crop system interaction (SOC and TSN) and soil fertility management (TOC, TSN, Ca, Zn). Soil inputs significantly influenced soil carbon concentrations (p = 0.002), with the lowest values observed in the control (0.2 %), followed by sole fertilizer (0.35 %), manure + fertilizer (0.41 %) and the fully decomposed manure treatment (0.61 %). The soil-extracted manganese values recorded significant effects due to crop system, while soil-extracted Zn values were significant due to soil fertility management. Multivariate analysis results revealed the structure of soil nutrient distribution. Tied ridging can improve soil micronutrient availability through reduced soil erosion, conservation of soil organic matter, which can improve soil micronutrient availability. Soil conservation practices such as tied-ridging integrated with organic input applications can enhance multiple nutrient availability for improved crop performance and human nutrition in dryland farming systems where farmers lack soil moisture, technologies and resources to enhance crop nutrient availability.