Evaluation of Forage Legumes and Intercropping System in Nepal

Evaluation of Forage Legumes and Intercropping System in Nepal

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Evaluation of forage legumes and intercropping system for improved productivity of maize on mid hills of Nepal
Among cereal crops, maize is the second staple food crops after rice grown in 80% of the hilly areas. Low land and irrigated land in Terai (Plain region) and lower to mid hills are characterized by rice based farming system with wheat, maize and cash crops as secondary product whereas upland and non-irrigated (mainly hills) is characterized by a maize based farming system (Paudel, Lamsal et al. 2011). Mixed crop livestock farming is predominant in mid hills of Nepal characterized by dominance of maize based cropping system, intensive cultivation, high degree of subsistence and close integration between crops, livestock and forest (Dhungana, Tripathee et al. 2012).The mid-hills of Nepal are characterized by complex and labour-intensive farming systems with low returns. About 70% of arable land in the hills can be classed as unirrigated hill slopes (bari land), and only about 30% is irrigated (khet land). Soil fertility under the traditional farming system has been maintained by repeated addition of various amounts of organic compost/manure that comes from livestock, ranging from 3 to 21 mt/ha/annum (Paudel 1992). But this seems to be not enough for nutrient balance to get enough productivity. Next to crop sector, livestock is the second most dominant subsector of the agriculture sector accounting for 29 % of AGDP and almost two third of the agriculture households in the country rear cattle as a source of income, draft power and manure (Joshy). In mid hill of Nepal livestock raising fulfil the nutrient demands by providing milk, meat, eggs, manure and draft power for the crop production as well as contributing to house hold economy but there is deleterious effect of over stocking and denudation of common grazing and forest land resource (Das and Shivakoti 2006). Fragmentation of land is major characteristics in Nepal. As the population grows the plot get further subdivided due to inherence, sales and other form of transaction. The NLSS (CBS 1997) shows the average holding of 1.22 ha in the mountain, 0.89 ha in the hills and 1.29 ha in the terai of which majority of land holding is small holders (Maskey, Sharma et al. 2003). Increasing migration is also one of the livelihood strategy of farm household in rural mid hill of Nepal which results in neglecting subsistence farming and in addition when the house hold income is insufficient farmers shows more interest in livestock farming than cropping farming (Maharjan, Bauer et al.

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2013). In such situation farmers are in great dilemma to make the right decision for farming in the face of human resource shortage and natural resource endowment.
In Dadeldhura district of Nepal water and labour requirement are the main constraint for the agricultural activities. The low rainfall and high temperature during the crops growing seasons severely affect the yield of the major cereals in Dadeldhura district (Bhandari). Internal and international migration is important components of the socio economic situation in Dadeldhura district almost with one member from each family because of poverty as the main factor (Jha 2011).
Indeed the agriculture productivity is far below the potential level, farming has remained subsistence oriented and the food produced is sufficient only for 3-8 months depending upon the location, type and size of the land and seasonal factors so migrating abroad are regular used to tide the food scarce periods (Tiwary, 2005) and as consequence there is feminization in agriculture with a bulk of work load and responsibilities due to shortage of male labour (Maharjan, Bauer et al. 2013). This results in labour crisis throughout the cropping season. In addition extra time has to be allocated to collect environmental goods such as fuel wood, fodder/forage collection besides agriculture farm. When these environmental products become more costly in terms of time to collect due to the degradation of community managed pasture or forest then more time has to be allocated to collect these goods (Cooke 1998) and which becomes almost impossible in terms of labour constraints period. There is also fundamental challenges with the community forest when there is insufficient production and restricted access to forest which is the basic need of the farmers and have significant impact on livestock farming (Dhakal, Bigsby et al. 2005). Source of available feed for the livestock in the Dadeldhura district are mainly natural pasture and crop residues. The currently available feeds cannot sustain the cattle requirement throughout the year mostly in the critical period being the dry season at October to May the time when both the quality and the quantity are very poor.
The introduction of forage legume in maize based farming system in mid hill is the promising strategy for increasing crop and livestock productivity. Intercropping of maize with legume enhanced the forage quality in terms of Crude protein yield and also produced greater dry matter yield than a maize sole crop (Eskandari 2012). Intercropping maize and legume has advantage on land use efficiency and is mainly due to a greater resource use and resource complementary (Belel, Halim et al. 2014). This is because forage legumes enhance soil fertility that leads to improved yields and sustainable production and also increase the nutritive value of the harvested product resulting in increased livestock productivity. Despite the high weight gains it is often too low crude protein level that limit the cattle production from the maize Stover (Dzowela 1985). Farmers who practice the cereal- legumes intercropping considered only for the food to harvest not what the legume can contribute to the livestock nutrition and significant increase in the food production through soil fertility improvement (Birteeb, Addah et al.)
The objective of this research is to determine a maize forage legume combination that would result in high maize grain and total Stover/legume straw yield, enhanced crude protein content of the maize Stover/legume straw and increased crude protein content of the maize grain and Stover.

• Maize forage legume integration improves the on farm biomass production of maize per unit area
• Incorporating of forage legume in maize based farming system improve the fodder production in terms of both quantity and quality to fill the feed gap during the dry season.

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