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International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

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Original Research Article

Integrated soil, water and agronomic management effects on crop
productivity and selected soil properties in Western Ethiopia
Teklu Erkossa a,n, Timothy O. Williams a, Fanuel Laekemariam b
International Water Management Institute, P. O. Box 5689, C/o ILRI Addis Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Wolita University, Ethiopia

art ic l e i nf o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Land degradation is a major challenge limiting crop production in Ethiopia. Integrated soil and water
Received 15 September 2017 conservation is widely applied as a means to reverse the trend and increase productivity. This study
Received in revised form investigated the effects of such integrated approaches at two sites, Jeldu and Diga, in Western Ethiopia. A
30 May 2018
split plot design with physical soil and water conservation in the main plots and agronomic practices in
Accepted 3 June 2018
the sub plots was employed. Maize (Zea mays L.) followed by groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) at Diga, and
Available online 30 June 2018
wheat (Triticum aestivum) followed by faba bean (Vicia faba L.) were the test crops. Surface soils were
Keywords: sampled before sowing and after the crop harvest, and analyzed for selected parameters. Soil moisture
Land degradation content during the growing period was also monitored. The use of soil bund increased soil moisture
Soil bund
content, and significantly (P o 0.05) increased days to flowering and maturity, kernel weight and harvest
index, grain yield of the test crops, with the exception of maize. The improved agronomic practices
Improved crop varieties
Crop-livestock systems (intercropping, fertilization and row planting) significantly (P o 0.05) increased grain yield of all the test
crops. The effect of the treatments on soil parameters may require longer time to be evident. Although
the increase in crop yield due to soil bund and the improved agronomic practices is eminent, economic
analysis is necessary before recommending the widespread use of the improved options.
& 2018 International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation and China Water and
Power Press. Production and Hosting by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-
ND license (

1. Introduction amendments is recognized as a major contributor to the lower
productivity (Alemayehu, 2008; Erkossa, Awlachew, & Hagos,
Human induced land degradation is a serious global threat that 2009; Erkossa, Wudneh, Desalegn, & Taye, 2015; Fanuel, Kibe-
increases vulnerability to climate change, especially in marginal bew, Tekalign, Karltun, & Gebrekidan, 2016; Tireza, Eyasu, &
agro-ecosystems with low and variable rainfall, steep slopes and Nata, 2013; Wudneh, Erkossa, & Devi, 2014). Although a con-
depleted soil fertility with resultant low agricultural productivity siderable increase in crop production is reported in recent
(Scherr and Yadav, 1995). In Ethiopia, agriculture is a key livelihood decades, studies show expansion of cultivated area is a major
source for over 85% of the country's population estimated to reach contributor to the growth (Alemayehu & Dorosh Dand Sinafi-
101 million by 2016 and growing at 2.5% (Beyene, 2015; UN De- keh, 2011; Fanuel, 2015). However, as the prime lands, espe-
partment for Economic and Social Affairs: Population division, cially in the settled highlands are used up, expansion of culti-
2015). Agriculture accounts for 43% of national GDP, 90% of export vation is directed towards lands with different land uses, such
revenue, 70% of the country's raw materials for industries and as forest (Bishaw, 2001) or grazing lands (Olson & Maitima,
engaging 83% of the labor force (CSA, 2014). Thus, it plays a crucial 2006). Expansion of agriculture to new lands usually involves
role in life and livelihoods in the country. either moving into the areas adjacent to the currently culti-
Growth in agricultural productivity, which is influenced by vated lands or migration to other areas with different agro-
anthropogenic and natural (mainly climatic and edaphic) fac- ecological settings.
tors could not match that of the demand. Land degradation Regardless of the condition of the new land acquired this
coupled with the limited capacity of the land users to apply way, farmers attempt to produce the same traditional crops
using the techniques that are not necessarily suitable for the
new site (Erkossa et al., 2015). The attendant deforestation in
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (T. Erkossa).
tandem with undulating terrain and fragile nature of the lands
Peer review under responsibility of International Research and Training Center and the heavy seasonal rains lead to erosion and deterioration
on Erosion and Sedimentation and China Water and Power Press. of soil quality (Erkossa et al., 2015; Fanuel et al., 2016; Schmidt
2095-6339/& 2018 International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation and China Water and Power Press. Production and Hosting by Elsevier B.V. This
is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
306 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

& Zemadim, 2015). A recent study demonstrated that loss of increase in crop yield due to soil bund may be related to the
plant nutrients with eroded sediments from the fragile eco- avoided nutrient loss with runoff (Erkossa et al., 2015). Besides,
systems in western Ethiopia following the conversion to agri- if moisture is limiting, the effect of retained soil moisture on
cultural use resulted in a significant yield reduction with an crop yield could be immediate.
immediate harm to the income of the farm households (USD Implementation of an appropriate agronomic practices
220 ha  1 and 150 ha  1 due to the loss of N and P, respectively) complements the physical soil and water conservation mea-
(Erkossa et al., 2015). Another study in southern Ethiopia by sures such as soil bund to accelerate the return to investment
Fanuel et al. (2016) also indicated the decrease in soil nutrients through increased crop yield. Intercropping which is widely
and crop yields on steep slope cultivated lands compared to practiced by smallholder farmers in developing countries of
lower landscape positions that was attributed to soil erosion. Africa, Asia and South America enables better utilization of
Innovative land, water and crop management practices, in- limited resources, and improves soil quality, particularly if
cluding the use of soil and water conservation and improved legumes are involved (Conant, 2009; Muoneke & Asiegbu,
agronomic practices such as intercropping, row planting and fer- 1997) and increase crop yield (Woodfine, 2009). The use of
tilization would increase crop yields and improve soil quality and suitable crop species and varieties, proper planting method
enhance ecological and economic resilience reducing the need for and application of the right types of fertilizers complement
further expansion of agricultural land. Studies show that soil the positive effects of physical soil and water conservation.
bunds reduce surface runoff, increase infiltration and improve Therefore, the use of physical soil and water conservation in
availability of water and nutrient to plants (Schmidt & Zemadim, tandem with appropriate agronomic practices may be a judi-
2015; Tadele et al., 2013; Tireza et al., 2013) and consequently cious and cost-effective strategy to maintain soil quality and
contribute to higher crop yield (Soomro, Rahman, Odhano, Gul, & enhance crop yield. However, research based evidences re-
Tareen, 2009; Tadele et al., 2013), especially in areas where soil garding the effects of physical soil and water conservation
moisture is a key constraint (Kassie et al., 2008). In areas where options used in conjunction with agronomic practices in the
soil depth and infiltration capacity are not limiting, contour soil humid tropical areas in western Ethiopia is not established.
bunds can help store water in the soil profile for use by crops This study examined the hypothesis that the integrated use of
during the dry spells as well as after cessation of the rain. soil bund and improved agronomic practices can enhance soil
After accounting for the area taken out production due to quality and increase crop yield.
their construction, Adimassu, Mekonnen, Yirga, and Kessler
(2014) reported no significant yield increase due to the use of 2. Materials and method
soil bunds in the short term despite the improvement in soil
quality. In addition to the offset due to reduction in the effec- 2.1. Description of the study area
tive growing area, this may be related to the local agro-ecolo-
gical settings including the extent of soil degradation, the type 2.1.1. Location
of crop grown, the use of complementary agronomic practices The study was conducted in Jeldu (9° 02'  09° 15' N & 38°
such as the choice of suitable crop varieties, cropping systems, 05'  38° 12' E) & Diga (09°10′N  09° 00′N & 36°10′E-36°30′E)
sowing methods and soil fertility management practices. For districts in western Ethiopia, located at 115 km & 346 km, re-
instance, in areas where fertilizers are used, the immediate spectively to the west of Addis Ababa in the Blue Nile River Basin

Fig. 1. Location map of the districts where the study was conducted.
T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316 307

Major characteristics, distribution of crops, livestock and key challenges across the study landscape positions in western Ethiopia.Source: Offices of Agriculture in each District, Annual Reports (2006–2010); ILRI Baseline Survey
(Fig. 1). The districts were purposively selected as they represent

Termites infestation, organic matter depletion, poor infiltration capacity, inefficient
quite well the farming systems in the Blue Nile River Basin, where

Lack of water storage & distribution systems, inefficient water use, inadequate
intensive crop cultivation is a recent phenomenon and accelerated
rain-induced soil erosion is at an alarming rate, threatening hu-

Deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, soil fertility depletion, soil acidity
Demographic pressure, soil fertility depletion, shortage of l&, soil acidity
man livelihood and environmental integrity.

water use, lack of water storage & distribution systems, soil acidity
2.1.2. Agro-ecology and soils
At both sites, as depicted in (Table 1) the elevation ( 4 1400
m at Jeldu & 4 500 m at Diga) affects the climate and in turn

Soil erosion, soil fertility depletion, shallow soil depth
Deforestation, cultivation of steep slopes, soil erosion,
resulted in the high variability of rainfall and temperature. The
lowest elevation ( o 1500 m. a. s. l.) is at Diga while the highest
( 4 3200 m. a. s. l.) is at Jeldu. This high variation in elevation
(Table 1) does also mean undulating topography with steep
slopes covered by soils with variable quality but are suitable
for diverse crop species. However, the prevailing natural and

Major challenges at District scale
anthropogenic challenges need to be addressed to exploit the
potential. The rainfall at both sites is unimodal starting be-
tween April and May and ending in September, with the
maximum occurring about end of July or early August (Fig. 2).
Diga receives higher precipitation, but the corresponding
evapotranspiration (PET) loss is also higher than that of Jeldu.

market access
Within each site, both precipitation and PET vary across ele-
vations, such that the temperature increases with elevation
while PET decreases. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 900
mm at Jeldu to more than 2000 mm at Diga. The mean mini-
mum and maximum annual temperatures are 17 °C & 22 °C,

Cattle, sheep, horse &

cattle, sheep, horse &
Cattle, goats, mule &

Cattle, goats mule &
respectively. Analysis of the composite surface soil samples

Cattle, sheep, goats,

Cattle, sheep, goats
taken before implementation from both sites revealed that the

Major livestock
soils are rich in clay ( 4 60%) and moderately acidic with low to
medium organic matter content and adequate to marginal





phosphorus levels (Table 2).

2.2. Farming systems

Barley- potato wheat, faba bean,
Maize-sorghum- sesame, finger
Maize, sorghum sesame, finger

Maize, tef sorghum, vegetables
Tef, finger millet niger seed,
Mixed crop-livestock agriculture is the dominant livelihood,
while the major crops grown vary between and within the

Wheat, tef, sorghum
districts across elevations (Table 1). Rainfed agriculture is the millet, groundnut
dominant system although small scale traditional irrigation is
practiced in limited areas along the valley bottoms and on the
Major crops

sides of streams. The major crops at both sites under rainfed

condition include: maize (Zea mays), barley (Hordium vulgar-


ae), wheat (Triticum aestivium), tef (Eragrostis tef Zucca), and
sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). While potato (Solanum tuberosum)
District Landscape position Elevation range (m a. Mean annual rain-

and enset (Ensete ventricosum) are also important crops in the
highland part of Jeldu, sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and cash
crops such as groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), sesame (Sesa-
1376  2037

900  1350
fall (mm)

mun indicum) and coffee (Coffea arabica) are also widely grown
at Diga. Population pressure, land degradation, inefficient use
of water (rainfed and irrigated) and inappropriate land use and
land and water management practices, are among the common
challenges to the sustainability of the agricultural systems.
Report, 2010: Zemadim et al. (2013) and own survey

2700  3200

2300  2700

2.3. Selection of sites and participating farmers
1800  2300

o 1450

The study site was selected in 2010 by the Nile Basin De-
s. l)

velopment Challenge (NBDC) sponsored by the Challenge
Program on Water and Food (CPWF) for implementation of
activities related to rainwater management systems for sus-
tainable crop and livestock productivity in the Blue Nile Basin.
The process involved formation of an Innovation Platforms (IP)
in 2011 at each district, which facilitated the participation of




all stakeholders’ in innovation design, planning and im-
plementation (Lema, Mulema, Le Borgne, & Duncan, 2015).
After detail characterization of the farming systems across
Table 1


landscape, land degradation, termite infestation and declining
crop productivity were identified as the major constraints to
308 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

Fig. 2. Average rainfall and evapotranspiration for Jeldu (a) and Diga (b) sites as estimated using NewLocClim.

Table 2
Selected soil physical and chemical properties of the plots before implementation of the treatments.

$ $
Soil parameter Jeldu Critical values and classification Diga Critical values & classification

Soil bund No bund Soil bund No bund

Texture clay clay clay clay Over 60% clay
pH 6.2 7 0.6 6.1 7 0.4 moderately acidic 6.3 7 0.3 5.7 7 0.5 moderately acidic
Corg (%) 2.4 7 0.5 2.9 7 0.7 low 4.4 7 1.0 4.1 7 1.1 medium
Nt (%) 0.28 7 0.1 0.29 7 0.0 high 0.24 7 0.0 0.20 7 0.1 medium
C: N ratio 8.57 10.00 very low-low 18.33 20.50 7 0 high
NH4-N (mg kg  1) 0.3 7 0.5 0.5 7 0.5 1.6 7 0.9 2.5 7 1.7
NO3-N (mg kg  1) 142.2 7 0.6 135.9 7 6 189.8 7 46.7 192.7 7 41.1
Available P (mg kg  1) 32.2 7 21.2 15.6 7 2 adequate/ marginal 21.8 7 10.7 16.9 7 4.7 adequate/marginal
Available S (mg kg  1) 1.6 7 0.9 0.97 7 0.2 1.8 7 0.6 2.2 7 0.8

$Landon, J.R. (Ed.), 1991. Booker tropical soil manual. A handbook for soil survey & agricultural land evaluation in the tropics & subtropics. Longman Inc, New York, U.S.A. 450p.

productivity. In 2014, the Humidtropics program adopted the and low elevations, respectively (Fig. 3). The two PAs are
same IP, and presented the result of the previous study, which characterized by soils with low infiltration capacity that leads
was used in identification of innovations. Low crop pro- to high runoff during the rainy season which in turn results in
ductivity mainly due to loss of plant nutrients with runoff, soil moisture stress during the dry spells and shortly after
terminal moisture stress, use of low yielding local varieties, cessation of rainfall. For the field experiment twenty and
inappropriate planting method, mono-cropping and non-or thirty voluntary farmers willing to participate and allocate a
unbalanced use of fertilizers were among the constraints quarter of hectare for the study were randomly selected in
2014 after checking the suitability of their plots for the trial in
identified (Lema et al., 2015). The IP prioritized soil bund and
terms of representativeness, proximity and distribution across
improved agronomic practices as entry point to reverse the
the area.
trend of land degradation and to increase crop production and
selected two Peasant Associations (PA) 1 , Kolu Gelan in Jeldu
2.4. Treatments and experimental design
and Arjo in Diga as representative for farming systems in mid
A split plot design with the soil and water conservation
PA is the smallest administrative unit in rural Ethiopia. measures (soil bund vs no bund) in the main plot and
T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316 309

Fig. 3. Location map of the farm plots within Kolu Gelan and Arjo peasant associations.

agronomic practices (improved vs traditional) in subplots was downstream soil heap of 0.6 m wide and 0.4 m height (Fig. 4)
employed on 20 and 30 farm plots at Jeldu and Diga, respec- on their plots. Corresponding farm plots with no bund were
tively (Table 3). The selected farmers were trained about the selected near those with soil bund after checking for their si-
implementation of the trials, including land preparation and milarity with those farms with soil bund.
recommended agronomic practices for the test crops. In addi- The bunds were tied at 3 m interval to maintain uniform dis-
tion, those farmers selected to test soil bunds were trained on tribution of the runoff in the basin. About 3–4 bunds per plot with
how to prepare it in the first year, and maintain in the fol- an average length of 30 m were constructed at 10–15 m interval
lowing years. At each site, half of the participant farmers as- depending on the slope gradient and dimension of the plots. De-
sisted with the local development agents have constructed sho grass (Pennisetum pedicelatu) was planted on the soil heaped
contour soil bund with 0.6 m width and 0.6 m depth and having on the downstream side of the bund, both to stabilize the bund
310 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

Table 3
Implementation plan of the experiment at Jeldu and Diga sites in western Ethiopia.

Site Farming system represented Treatments

2014 2015

Diga Lowland- maize based system Main plota Sub plots Main plota Sub plot
Soil bund 1. maize haricot bean intercropped Soil bund 1. groundnut þ fertilizer
2. sole maize 2. groundnutþ no fertilizer
No bund 1. maize haricot bean intercropped No bund 1. groundnut þ fertilizer
2. sole maize 2. groundnutþ no fertilizer
Jeldu Midland- wheat based system Soil bund 1. wheat- row Soil bund 1. faba bean- row
2. wheat- broadcast 2. faba bean- broadcast
No bund 1. wheat row No bund 1. faba bean- row
2. wheat- broadcast 2. faba bean- broadcast

The soil bunds were stabilized using vegetative materials including desho grass.

2.5. Soil sampling and analysis

In June 2014, immediately before the treatments were im-
plemented, a composite surface (0–30 cm) soil samples consisting
of 10 sub-samples from each farm plot were taken to form 1 kg
sample using a zigzag pattern and analyzed to establish the initial
conditions of the soils. In February 2015, immediately after the
crops were harvested, a composite surface soil samples with five
sub samples per sub plot were collected from the treated and
control plots. The samples were analyzed at ‘Horticoop’ a private
soil laboratory for pH, organic carbon (Corg), available phosphorus
(AP), total nitrogen (Nt), available nitrogen (Nitrate N & Ammo-
nium N) and available Sulfur (AS).
Soil pH was determined at 1:2 soil: water suspension ratio
using pH meter (Mylavarapu, 2009). Soil Corg was determined by
dichromate oxidation method (Walkley & Black, 1934). Kjeldahl
digestion and distillation method (Jackson, 1958) for total nitro-
Fig. 4. Schematic sketch and dimension a typical soil bund used in the study. gen, spectrophotometer (Estefan, Sommer, & Ryan, 2013) for mi-
neral nitrogen (NH4 þ & NO3-) was employed. Available phos-
and to ensure the efficient utilization of the land (i.e., forage for cut phorous was also measured using spectrophotometer after ex-
and carry purpose). traction according to Bray II method (Bray & Kurtz, 1945). Available
Before planting in 2014, each plot was equally divided into sulfur was determined using turbid metric method (Kowalenko,
two and assigned to the improved agronomic practices and the 1985). In addition, gravimetric soil moisture at 0–30 cm and 30–60
control (Table 3). Improved varieties of wheat (Kekeba) and cm depth was determined at 10–15 days intervals.
hybrid maize (BH543) in 2014 and faba bean (Gabalcho) and Soil texture was analyzed using the hydrometer method
local cultivar of groundnut (Burre) in 2015 were planted at (Bouyoucos, 1951). Soil bulk density was determined using soil
core samples, taken using core sampling ring (51 mm long & 50
Jeldu and Diga, respectively on their respective recommended
mm internal diameter) from about the middle of 0–30 cm and that
planting dates and seeding rates. The row planted wheat seed
of 60 cm soil depth, respectively (Anderson & Ingram, 1993).
was placed by hand after ripping the bed at 25 cm spacing and
both the row planted and broadcast plots received 100 kg ha  1
2.6. Agronomic data collection
NPS (a compound fertilizer containing 19%N, 38%P 2 O 5 and 7% S,
respectively) at planting while 100 kg ha  1 urea (46  0-0) was Agronomic parameters indicating growth, yield and yield
top-dressed 36–40 days after planting. Similarly, maize was components of the test crops such as population count, plant
planted at 75 cm x 60 cm spacing and haricot bean (Nasir) was height, days to 50% flowering and physiological maturity, number
planted at 37.5 cm x 30 cm spacing 36  40 days later for the of tillers per plant (except for maize), above ground biomass, grain
intercropped plots. Regardless of the treatments, the maize yield, harvest index (HI) and thousand kernel weight (TKW) were
plots received the full dose of 100 kg ha  1 NPS and half of the determined. For determination of yield and yield components, a
100 kg ha  1 urea at sowing, while the remaining half was top square quadrant with 1 m2 size was randomly assigned to three
dressed when the maize was at knee height. random spots in each plot; the crop within each quadrant was
In 2015 at Jeldu, faba bean was planted at 40 cm x 40 cm spa- harvested and weighed, and manually threshed to separate the
cing for the row and at a rate of 200 kg ha-1 for the broadcast grain and the straw. The grain was weighed using a top-load
treatments, whereas groundnut was planted at 128 kg ha  1 at balance and the difference in weight between the above ground
Diga. All of the faba bean and the improved plots of groundnut biomass and the grain was considered as straw fresh weight.
received NPS fertilizer at a rate of 200 kg ha  1 and 50 kg ha  1, Twenty gram of the straw and 10 g of the grain were taken to la-
boratory and dried in oven at 65 °C for 48 h and the moisture
respectively. Except for the treatment factors, all the plots received
content was determined, and used to determine the dry biomass
a uniform agronomic management.
and to adjust moisture content of the grain to 12.5%, and then the
T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316 311

yield per hectare was calculated. The sum of oven dried straw and of days to maturity of maize. In 2015, when the region faced one of
grain adjusted to 12.5% moisture content was considered as the the worst droughts in 30 years caused by El Niño climate condi-
total above ground biomass. From the oven dried grain, 1000 seeds tions, that led to failed harvests (AfDB, OECD, UNDP, 2016), the use
were randomly picked and weighed to get the thousand-kernel of contour bund significantly increased days to flowering and
weight. Harvest index was determined by dividing the grain (ad- maturity of groundnut, and days to flowering and plant height of
justed to 12.5% moisture content) by the total dry above ground faba bean as compared to the control (Table 4). The extended
biomass. number of days to flowering and maturity is related to the effect of
soil bund in increasing availability of moisture due to the reduced
2.7. Data analysis runoff and increased infiltration and enhancing nutrients avail-
ability, especially nitrogen that would have been lost with runoff
Both the soil and crop data was subjected to general linear (Admassu et al., 2014). The reduced limitation of water and nu-
model procedure using the Statistical Analysis System SAS (SAS, trients allowed luxurious vegetative growth of crops grown on
2008). When the main and interaction effects of the treatments plots with soil bunds, while those grown without soil bund swit-
were significant, mean comparison was performed using least ched to early senescence and maturity due to the possible terminal
significance differences (LSD) at 5% level of probability. In addition, moisture stress (Fig. 4).
t-test was run to detect changes among soil parameters between The agronomic practices led to a significant effect on most
the initial samples and those collected at harvest of each crop. of the growth parameters including tillers per plant, plant
height and days to flowering and to maturity of wheat, and
days to maturity of maize in 2014, but in 2015 only the number
3. Results and discussion of days to flowering of groundnut was significantly affected. In
2014, row sowing of wheat resulted in a significant increase in
The main and interaction effect of the treatments on crop number of tillers per plant, plant height and days to maturity,
performance and soil parameters are presented separately. While but it reduced days to flowering. This is because row method of
most of the crop performance indicators were significantly af- sowing allowed lower competition and created better access to
fected by the main effects, few of them were affected by the in- resources (nutrient and water) for the plants leading to lux-
teraction. With a few exceptions, the treatments did not sig- urious vegetative growth ‘horizontally’ such as the increased
nificantly affect the soil characteristics. tillering & ‘vertically’ like the enlarged plant height. The ex-
tended days to maturity, which enables longer time for pho-
3.1. Crop growth and productivity tosynthesis and translocation of the carbohydrates enhances
seed size and weight leading to increased yield and harvest
3.1.1. Crop growth index. Although intercropped haricot bean failed to complete
Growth is the most important process to understand in pre- its life cycle due to shade effect of maize, the maturity of maize
dicting plant responses to the environment (Hopkins, 1995). In intercropped with bean delayed by 7 days (Table 4) as com-
2014, which was a normal year in the region in terms of rainfall, pared to the sole maize implying that the crop got longer time
the use of soil bund significantly (p o0.05) increased the number for photosynthesis and translocation of carbohydrate. Row

Table 4
Effect of soil conservation measures and agronomic practices on growth and phenology of some crops grown at Diga and Jeldu districts in western Ethiopia.

Treatments Jeldu Diga

Days to flowering Days to maturity Tiller per plant Plant height (cm) Days to flowering Days to maturity Population m  2

Wheat Maize

Soil and water conservation measures

Soil bund 59.5 147.5 4.95 99.6 65.7 166.6a
No bund 58.6 144.3 3.95 98.1 64.7 159.6b
LSD (5%) ns ns ns ns ns 4.5
Agronomic practices
Row/intercropped 56.8b 147.8a 5.5a 105.1a 65.3 164.1a
Broadcast/sole 61.3a 144.9b 3.5b 92.6b 65.1 162.1b
LSD (5%) 3.8 1.9 0.34 2.4 NS 1.4
CV (%) 0.9 2.0 4.5 3.7 3.2 1.7
Faba bean Groundnut
Soil and water conservation measures
Soil bund 80.5a 114a 2.0a 60.9a 145.1a 6.2a
No bund 78.6b 107b 1.8b 56.9b 136.9b 5.4b
LSD (5%) 0.5 5.0 0.16 2.5 4.7 0.8
Agronomic practices
Row/fertilizer 79.6 112a 2.0 59.6a 141.3 5.9
Broadcast/no fertilizer 79.5 108b 1.8 58.2b 140.7 5.6
LSD (5%) Ns 2.5 Ns 0.8 ns Ns
CV (%) 0.4 2.1 16.6 2.1 2.7 15.3

LSD ¼ least significant difference; ns ¼ not significant; CV ¼ coefficient of variation; $ subplot treatments shown for 2014/2015; means in the same column for the same
factor followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 5% level of probability.
312 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

Table 5
Effect of soil and water conservation options and agronomic practices on yield and yield components of some crops grown at Jeldu and Diga districts in western Ethiopia.

Treatments$ Jeldu Diga

Wheat Maize

Biomass (t ha  1) Grain (t ha  1) HI Thousand kernel weight (g) Biomass (t ha  1) Grain (t ha  1) HI Thousand kernel weight (g)

Soil and Water Conservation
Soil bund 21.3a 2.9a 0.14 43.3a 19.3a 6.9 0.36 349a
No bund 18.7b 2.5b 0.14 40.6b 13.6b 6.2 0.46 316b
LSD (5%) 2.6 0.3 ns 2.3 3.2 ns Ns 29
CV (%) 14.4 12.3 17.1 6.5 23.1 17.7 19.0 10.3
Agronomic Practices
Row/intercropped 20.9 2.9a 0.15a 42.1 18.0a 7.1a 0.32 354a
Broadcast/sole 19.1b 2.4b 0.13b 41.9 14.9b 6.0b 0.31 311b
LSD (5%) 1.5 0.2 0.01 Ns 2.0 0.61 Ns 18
CV (%) 11.00 11.74 15.43 6.09 23.1 17.7 19.0 10.3
Soil and Water Conservation
Faba bean Groundnut
Soil bund 24b 3.3a 0.14a 107.4a 6.0 2.2a 0.38a 6.0
No bund 35a 3.1b 0.09b 101.0b 5.2 1.4b 0.26b 5.2
LSD (5%) 4.0 0.08 0.02 1.5 Ns 0.43 0.06 Ns
CV (%) 16.3 2.8 12.9 2.26 19.0 14.0 19.8 19.0
Agronomic Practices
Row/fertilizer 32.0a 3.3a 11.1a 106.0a 5.85 2.0a 0.33 5.6
Broadcast/sole 27.0b 3.1b 12.1b 102.5b 5.34 1.6b 0.30 5.3
LSD (5%) 3.2 0.1 2.1 Ns 0.17 Ns Ns
CV (%) 16.3 2.8 12.9 2.1 19.0 14.0 19.8 19.0

LSD ¼ least significant difference; ns ¼ not significant; CV ¼ coefficient of variation; $ subplot treatments shown for 2014/2015; means in the same column for the same
factor followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 5% level of probability.

planting of faba bean in 2015 following the row planted wheat Table 6
in the previous year has significantly increased number of days Interaction effect of soil and water conservation and agronomic practices on days to
maturity of faba bean and kernel weight of groundnut in 2015 in western Ethiopia.
to maturity, while application of fertilizers to groundnut grown
on precursor of maize intercropped with haricot bean has Agronomic Soil No bund
significantly increased the number of days to flowering of the practices bund
Days to maturity of faba bean Row sowing 132a 127b
Broadcasting 131a 122c
3.1.2. Crop productivity- yield and yield components LSD (5%) ¼ 0.54; CV (%) ¼ 20
Table 5 depicts the effects of contour bund and improved Thousand kernel weights of NPS fertilizers 11.6a 10.8c
agronomic practices on yield and yield components of the test groundnut No fertilizer 11.2b 10.7c
crops grown in 2014 and 2015 at Jeldu and Diga. In 2014, the LSD (5%) ¼ 2.3; CV (%) ¼ 17

use of soil bund significantly increased the total biomass yield LSD ¼ least significant difference; ns ¼ not significant; CV ¼ coefficient of var-
and hundred seeds weight of both wheat and maize, but the iation; means in the same column for the same factor followed by the same letter
corresponding increase in grain yield was significant only on are not significantly different at 5% level of probability
wheat. The grain yield increase due to soil bund ranged from
6% for faba bean in 2015–11% and 16% for maize and wheat in infiltration and enhanced nutrients availability (Admasu et al.,
2014, to a maximum of 57% of groundnut in 2015, but the in- 2014) that has resulted in increased individual grain weight
crease for maize was not significant. In 2015, although the use and number of grains per plant. This corroborates the findings
of soil bund has significantly (P o 0.05) reduced the total above of Ghassemi-Golezani et al. (2009) who reported a superior
ground biomass of faba bean (by 31%), it has significantly in- performance of well-watered crops (including faba bean)
creased the TKW and HI and consequently exhibited grain yield during the grain filling stage that led to more and larger grains
of 6% as compared to the traditional practice of no soil bund. and consequently higher grain yield per unit area. According to
The reduction of biomass due to the use of soil bund may be Zhang and Oweis (1998), adequate water at or after anthesis
related to the excess water that leads to poor aeration during stage does not only allow the crop to increase photosynthesis
the main rain season. The increased water availability during rate but also gives extra time to translocate the carbohydrate to
the grain filling stage might have contributed to the increased grains which improves grain size and increases grain yield
HI, leading to increased grain yield as compared to that ob- (Akram, 2011). The length of the grain filling period is an im-
tained due to the control. In faba bean, water stress decreases portant determinant of yield of all grain crops (Egli, 1998).
the final leaf area (Claudio et al., 1997), net photosynthesis As mentioned earlier, the fertilizer rate recommended under
(Hura, Hura, Grzesiak, & Rzepka, 2007), light use efficiency the traditional condition in which runoff is allowed to wash off the
(Xia, 1994), pod retention and filling by reducing the avail- nutrients was used for all plots, irrespective of the treatments.
ability of assimilates and distorting hormonal balance (Ghas- However, when the nutrient loss with runoff is avoided due to the
semi-Golezani, Ghanehpoor, & Mohammadi-Nasab, 2009). soil bunds, the fertilizer applied could be more than the required
The improvement in yield and yield components due to soil leading to over fertilization, especially nitrogen that led to tall
bund is related to the enhanced water availability during the plants and lodging (Rajkumara, 2008) which was exhibited in
grain filling stage (Fig. 4) due to reduced runoff and increased wheat and maize in 2014 and faba bean in 2015. In this
T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316 313

Fig. 5. Effect of soil bund on soil moisture content (0–60 cm) at Jeldu in 2024.

Fig. 6. Effect of soil bund on soil moisture content (0–60 cm) at Jeldu in 2025.

connection, a recent study conducted in the same area showed a crops, except for the kernel weight of wheat in 2014. This confirms
significant loss of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers with runoff the previous findings in in which row sowing significantly in-
with attendant substantial yield reduction (Erkossa et al., 2015). creased in plant high, pods plant, biomass and seed yield of faba
This partly explains the extremely low harvest index of wheat and bean (Wakweya & Meleta, 2016) and wheat (Alemu, Emana, Haji, &
faba bean grown subsequently. Legesse, 2014; Soomro et al., 2009) as compared to broadcast
On the contrary, the crops grown without soil bund also ex- planting. Likewise, intercropping of maize with haricot bean in
hibited lower HI, TKW and grain yield, even when they gave higher 2014 followed by application of NPS on groundnut has sig-
above ground biomass, which is related to the moisture stress after nificantly increased biomass, grain yield and kernel weight of
the secession of rainfall (Fig. 3), which led to shorter grain filling maize in 2014, but in 2015 the increase was significant only on
duration and lower accumulation of dry matter in the growing grain yield of groundnut. This contradicts the previous findings in
kernels (Agueda, 1999; Garcia, 2003; Samarah, 2004; Samarah, which intercropping of maize with haricot bean has either sig-
Alqudah, Amayreh, & McAndrews, 2009; Sanchez, Garcia, & An- nificantly reduced or had no appreciable effect on maize yield
tolin, 2002) as a result of the reduction in the rate and duration of (Tolera, 2003; Adafre, 2016). The discrepancy may be related to the
starch accumulation in the endosperm (Brooks, Jenner, & Aspinall, fact that the haricot bean could grow only for few weeks only to
1982). perish and become ‘green manure’ for the maize crop, which had
Similarly, the improved agronomic practices (row sowing of rather a positive effect on the main crop. In 2015, row planting has
wheat and faba bean at Jeldu and intercropping of maize with significantly reduced the HI of faba bean which is related to the
haricot bean followed by application NPS fertilizer) have sig- luxurious vegetative growth and lodging which may be due to
nificantly improved most of the yield and yield components at over fertilization. The fertilizer rate used in the study was re-
both locations in both years. At Jeldu, row planting of wheat in commended for the traditional practice of broadcast planting, in
2014 and faba bean in 2015 has significantly increased above which the crop access to the nutrients is lower than in row
ground biomass, grain yield, and HI and kernel weight of both planting where fertilizers are placed in row with the seeds.
314 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

Table 7
Surface soil (0–30 cm) chemical properties as affected by soil and water conservation and agronomic practices at Jeldu in western Ethiopia.

Year Treatment pH (1:2 water) OC (%) TN (%) NH4-N (%) NO3-N (%) Pav (mg kg  1) Sav (mg kg  1)

Jeldu 2014 Soil bund 5.9 2.9 0.27 0.11 70.4 7.8 13.6
No bund 5.9 2.9 0.29 0.08 72.8 9.5 13.6
LSD (5%) ns ns ns 0.03 ns ns ns
Row 5.9 3.0 0.29 0.08 76.9 8.5 13.5
Broad cast 5.9 2.9 0.28 0.11 66.3 8.9 13.8
LSD (5%) ns ns ns ns ns ns ns
CV (%) 3.3 17.5 18.48 56.44 30.0 31.8 37.5
2015 Soil bund 6.0 3.4 2.25a 0.46a 16.4 14.3a 11.5
No bund 5.9 2.5 0.27b 0.21b 23.0 3.9b 13.9
LSD (5%) ns ns 0.52 0.09 ns 3.9 ns
Row 5.9 1.5 0.26b 0.45a 27.2a 6.6b 14.0
Broad cast 5.9 1.3 2.26a 0.22b 12.2b 11.6a 11.4
LSD (5%) ns ns 0.44 0.08 5.21 3.36 ns
CV (%) 5.2 18.3 17.6 33.5 32.4 28.5 34.8
Diga 2014 Soil bund 5.9 4.8 0.26 0.4 85.5 10.6 9.0
No bund 5.7 4.6 0.22 0.3 98.0 9.4 7.1
LSD (5%) ns ns ns ns ns ns ns
Intercropped 5.7 4.7 0.24 0.3 90.9 10.2 8.1
Sole 5.8 4.6 0.24 0.3 93.7 9.7 7.8
LSD (5%) ns ns ns ns ns ns ns
CV (%) 3.3 19.5 207 42.3 29.4 33.2 34.7
2015 Soil bund 5.7a 4.71 0.25 0.31 89.9 8.4 9.4
No bund 5.5b 4.98 0.25 0.23 86.6 7.2 7.26
LSD (5%) 0.19 ns ns ns ns ns ns
Fertilizer 5.6 4.85 0.25 0.32a 90.0 8.2 7.5b
No fertilizer 5.5 4.84 0.25 0.21b 86.5 7.3 9.2a
LSD (5%) ns ns ns 18.37 ns ns 1.7
CV (%) 4.8 14.6 6.7 22 24.3 11.0 39.3

LSD ¼ Least significant difference; ns ¼ Not significant; CV ¼ Coefficient of variation; means in the same column for the same factor followed by the same letter are not
significantly different at 5% level of probability

3.1.3. The interaction effects between the two layers and the agronomic practices was
The interaction effect of the treatments was significant only negligible. Figs. 5 and 6 depict the effect of the soil bund on soil
on days to maturity of faba bean and 100 kernel weight of moisture content at 0–60 cm (the effective root depth of most
groundnut in 2015 (Table 6). The highest number of days to crops in the area) at Jeldu in 2014 & 2015, respectively. Evi-
maturity (132 days) was due to the combined use of soil bund dently, the soil moisture content of the plots treated with soil
and row planting as opposed to the lowest (122 days) which bund exceeded that of the control throughout the study period.
was due to broadcast on plots without soil bund. This may be While the soil moisture of the plot with soil bund exceeded the
related to the luxurious vegetative growth of the crop due to moisture content at field capacity for several months, that of
the combined effect of prolonged water availability made the control plots exceeded only briefly. This shows that level
possible by the soil bund and the possible increased nutrient soil bunds may retain excess water during the high rainfall
availability because of the reduced nutrients loss with runoff weeks which could be detrimental to sensitive crops such as
and the improved placement of the seeds and fertilizers which wheat and faba bean, the sign of which was observed in some
results in reduced competition between plants in row sowing plots during the study. Further, with the recession and seces-
as compared to the broadcast method (Soomro et al., 2009). As sion of rainfall, the moisture content of the plots with soil bund
depicted in Table 6, the combined use of soil bund and appli- remained higher than that of the control plots and permanent
cation of fertilizers on plot with precursor crop maize inter- wilting point until the crops were harvested.
cropped with haricot bean resulted in the highest kernel Apparently, this was because, the major part of the rain-
weight of groundnut as opposed to the lowest which was water was forced to infiltrate due to the soil bund. Under the
obtained when no fertilizer was used on plots without soil traditional practices represented by the control plots, the wa-
bund. This is related to the increased water availability during ter is lost as runoff and hence not used for crop production
the grain filling stage of the crop, which also allowed pro- (Nyssen et al., 2005; Rao et al., 1998). It also causes soil erosion
longed utilization of the fertilizer. The residual effect of the and nutrient loss with a detrimental effect on-site and off-site
previous year, in which nitrogen fixing haricot bean was (Erkossa et al., 2015). Technically, level soil bund is meant to
grown, might also have contributed to the increased vegeta- store water instead of safe disposal, which is the case with the
tive growth, which gave the seeds longer time to mature. graded version. The construction of the graded soil bund re-
quires an integrated watershed management approach in
3.2. Soil physicochemical characteristics which the drainage from all plots in the neighborhood should
coordinated. However, if such arrangement is not an option,
3.2.1. Soil moisture content level bunds which put all the water into the soil profile for use
At both sites and the monitored soil layers (0–30 cm and 30– by the current and subsequent crops can be used, provided the
60 cm), the soil moisture content of the plots with soil bund disadvantageous such as waterlogging effect does not out-
consistently exceeded that of the control, but the difference weigh the benefits.
T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316 315

3.2.2. Soil chemical characteristics weight and harvest index. As a result, the grain yield was
The main and interaction effect of the treatments was sig- higher when soil bund was used as compared to when not,
nificant only on a few of the soil parameters considered (Ta- even when the total above ground biomass was lower. The
ble 7). Generally, the effects are inconsistent and sometimes improved agronomic practices, row planting of wheat and faba
contradictory to expectations. In 2014, the main and interac- bean, intercropping of maize with haricot bean and fertiliza-
tion effects of the treatments was not significant on any of the tion of groundnut, all have enhanced crop growth, yield and
parameters considered, but in 2015, soil bund significantly yield components. However, the effect on soil moisture and soil
increased TN, NH 4 -N and available P at Jeldu and soil pH at chemical characteristics was negligible. The interaction effect
Diga. Similarly, row planting of wheat in 2014 and faba bean in between the soil and water conservation and agronomic
2015 at Jeldu and intercropping of haricot bean with maize practices was significant on days to maturity of faba bean and
followed by application of NPS to groundnut in 2015 at Diga
thousand kernel weight of groundnut where the combined use
significantly increased the NH 4 -N content of the soil in 2015.
of the practices resulted in the highest number of days to
On the other hand, TN and available P were reduced due to row
maturity of faba bean and the highest kernel weight of
planting of wheat in 2014 and faba bean in 2015 at Jeldu. Si-
groundnut. While the effect of the treatments on soil quality
milarly, intercropping of haricot bean with maize followed by
may require longer time, the improvement on crop pro-
application of NPS significantly reduced available sulfur in
ductivity is due to the use of both the soil and water con-
2015 at Diga. However, irrespective of the treatments, several
of the parameters have significantly changed as compared to servation and the improved agronomic practices is eminent.
their status before implementation of the treatments (Ap- However, the analysis of the net economic benefits and farm-
pendix A Table A1). ers’ opinion in view of the long term economic and ecological
benefits is a prerequisite for recommending the widespread
use of the practices.
4. Conclusion

The use of contour soil bund in a relatively high rainfall area Acknowledgements
of western Ethiopia and improved crop management practices
have improved crop growth and yield, but the effect on soil This study was financially supported by the CGIAR Humidtropics
chemical characteristics was limited to few parameters. Over- program and the International Water Management Institute. The
all, the impact of soil bund on crop growth and yield was support obtained from the IP members including the participating and
greater in 2015 which is the dry year than in 2014 which is the non-participating farmers in designing and implementation of the
normal year. This may also exhibit the cumulative effect of the field trial is highly appreciated. Nigusu Bekele helped in soil sampling
treatments. The use of soil bund increased soil moisture con- while MSc students, Anania Tesfaye, Ebisa Ararsa, Ferede Abuye and
tent during the growing period, and resulted in extended Keberku Endashaw, all from Ambo University helped in field data
growing period. This increased the number of days to flowering collection and sampling. Yenenesh Abebe, GIS expert with IWMI has
and maturity, which contributed to the increased kernel helped in generating the location maps.

Appendix A

See Table A1.

Table A1
Soil bund and crop management practices on the soil chemical properties at Jeldu during 2014 in western Ethiopia.

Soil parameter (N ¼ 20) Test Soil and Water Conservation Practices Crop Management Practices

Soil bund t-sig. No bund t-sig. Row planting t-sig. Broadcasting t-sig.

pH B 6.2 7 0.6 NS 6.1 7 0.4 NS 6.117 0.5 NS 6.117 0.5 NS
A 5.9 7 0.3 6.0 70.0 5.96 7 0.2 5.95 7 0.2
OC (%) B 2.4 7 0.5 * 2.9 70.7 NS 2.7 7 0.7 NS 2.7 7 0.7 NS
A 2.9 7 0.7 3.0 7 0.5 3.0 7 0.5 2.9 7 0.7
TN (%) B 0.28 7 0.1 NS 0.29 70.04 NS 0.29 7 0.05 NS 0.29 7 0.05 NS
A 0.27 7 0.1 0.29 70.5 0.29 7 0.05 0.28 7 0.06
NH4-N (mg kg  1) B 0.3 7 0.5 * 0.5 70.5 ** 0.40 7 0.5 ** 0.40 7 0.5 **
A 0.07 7 0.1 0.04 7 0.04 0.05 7 0.04 0.06 7 0.09
NO3-N (mg kg ) B 142.17 98.6 ** 135.9763.7 *** 139.0 783.1 ** 139.0 783.1 ***
A 70.4 7 31.0 72.8 7 17.0 76.9 7 21.6 66.3 7 26.9
Available P (mg kg ) B 32.2 7 21.2 *** 15.6 7 15.4 NS 23.9 720.4 ** 23.9 720.4 **
A 7.8 73.9 9.5 7 3.6 8.5 7 3.7 8.9 7 3.9
Available S (mg kg  1) B 1.6 7 0.9 *** 0.97 7 0.2 *** 1.3 7 0.8 *** 1.3 7 0.8 ***
A 13.6 7 5.0 13.6 7 5.8 13.5 74.7 13.8 7 6.0

B ¼ before treatment A ¼after treatment NS ¼ Non-significant difference.
*, **, ***, significantly different at 5%, 1% and o.1% level of probability, respectively.
316 T. Erkossa et al. / International Soil and Water Conservation Research 6 (2018) 305–316

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