Legume intensification for increased agricultural productivity and sustainability

Uganda has one of the world’s fastest growing populations, which must be matched with increases in agricultural production. The biggest challenge is to ensure effective and sustainable use of available arable land. Almost all Ugandan farmers practice intercropping, crop rotation and mixed farming, but are constantly challenged with pest and disease problems, high production costs and low soil fertility and adoption of technologies.

A wide variety of crops are grown in different regions with legumes especially common bean and soybeans being grown across regions. For instance, about 85% of the farmers grow common beans as intercrop. These legume crops have high biological nitrogen fixation potential, help reduce soil erosion, maintain soil high moisture and suppress weeds. Intercrops are known to reduce pest and disease problems. The majority of farmers operate on small farm holdings and are resource-limited with little or no ability to afford inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

Under this project idea, agro ecology-specific, cost-effective rotations and intercrops will be designed for higher yields. Use of legumes in intercrops and rotations will be intensively promoted to improve soil fertility through nitrogen fixation. When leaves fall, they rot and add organic matter to soil which in turn reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide hence mitigating climate change. Increased soil health will increase both above and below ground biodiversity resulting into improved ecosystem services and productivity. The diversified crop rotations will provide sustainable and resilient crop production systems to weeds, pests and diseases hence increasing crop protection. Moreover, crops have been found to give higher yields when they follow legumes in rotations or are in intercrops.

The project will promote use of legume inoculation with bacteria to enhance nitrogen fixation. Effective fertilizer packages will be designed to supplement provision of macro and micronutrients which are major soil health problems limiting crop productivity in Uganda. Moreover it is reported that best yields are achieved when nutrients come from a mix of mineral fertilizers and natural sources. Inorganic fertilizers will be used judiciously, money will be saved and this will ensure that plants get just enough nutrients and prevent pollution of air, soil and water sources.

Reduced use of chemical pesticides will reduce or eliminate the likelihood for development of herbicide and pesticide resistance. Personally, I have carried out some research on crop rotation and intercropping systems in Uganda and got promising results which will be beneficial to thousands on Ugandan rural farming households by increasing food, nutrition and income security. However, the research was limited by finances; with support from IUPAC 2019 Next Generation Programme, more research will be done in areas below to generate more knowledge and information to enable better planning and timely application of appropriate crop technologies.

i. Develop more agronomic measures to further reduce the risk of attack by pests, diseases and weeds.

ii. Generate more knowledge on use and value of crop rotations and intercrops with more emphasis on legumes for better crop yields and sustainability.

The proposed project will use Iron and Zinc rich bean varieties firstly to fight malnutrition amongst millions of Ugandans especially children under 5 years and pregnant and lactating women. In Uganda, malnutrition levels are  very high with, 33% of children under five years stunted, 5% wasted and 14% underweight (UBOS, 2011).  This high prevalence of stunting is classified by World Health Organization as a serious public health problem requiring critical attention. According to the Lancet 2013 series on maternal and child nutrition, maternal and child micronutrient deficiencies such as iron, Zinc and Vitamin A are major public health concerns. Secondly to increase dissemination of these beans which have not yet reached most rural communities of the country since their release in 2016 due to financial constraints. Also soybeans are highly nutritious, therefore increasing availability, accessibility and consumption of these micronutrient rich common bean and soybeans will increase nutrition security. The project will promote planting of pasture legumes during fallow periods; this will enable farmers to get fodder for their livestock while those who are not will generate income from pasture sale; the farmyard manure obtained will further reduce use of inorganic fertilizers. The pasture legumes will also improve soil fertility, reduce soil erosion and maintain high soil moisture levels.

In this project, I will employ on-farm participatory approaches to increase dissemination and adoption of technologies for improved productivity and long term sustainability. I believe that if I participate in the IUPAC 2019 Next Generation Programme, I will get exposure and learn from the World’s experts of different disciplines especially crop protection and become a crop protection leader of the next generation. Thus, this idea will be refined   and implementation will increase availability and accessibility of resilient technologies that will enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability in Uganda.

Ssekandi Wilber, Uganda

14 comments

  1. Very intresting opportunity that needs to be explored and promoted considering the present challenges of productivity small holder farmers face in Uganda. This will promote food security, improve livelihoods and eliminate the high levels of malnutrition in Uganda today.

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  2. I think this idea is very critical when it comes to fighting malnutrition and food security especially in children and lactating mothers in Uganda

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  3. Nice article to read. I love common beans myself and the fact that it’s staple food in my community means any scientific support to improve its productivity will impact millions of food insecure Ugandans. Good stuff Ssekandi W.

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  4. This study is so much essential. It addresses the problem of decreasing food yield due to the progressive decrease in soil fertility. If supported and the study is completed, it will be a very big step in combating food and nutrition insecurity in the country. Big up Wilber!

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  5. This is a thought out and timely approach given the ever-reducing crop productivity. Crop pest, especially insects, devastate legume production in Uganda as a whole. Thumbs up for this intervention and I know that my grand mother will be able to effectively utilize her small plot under crop production.

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  6. I approve of the content of this article particular the emphasis on judicious use of inorganic inputs. This will increase the portion of profit generated that will go to the farmer’s pocket thereby increasing his financial security.

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