Productivity improvement in rice-based intercropping systems of the Lake Victoria Crescent Agro-ecological Zone.

Background

This is a five year project (2009-2014) aiming at providing solutions to the queries raised by rice farmers who intercrop rice with other crops.  The overall aim of the rice intercropping project is to enhance sustainable food quantity and diversity among small-scale farmers within the Lake Victoria crescent Agro-ecological zone of Uganda. The strategy is to improve yield of rice and other crops by encouraging rice intercrops, which are believed to be better in productive efficiency. Most upland rice farmers are also used to monoculture, but they think that rice takes up land for long, depriving them of land for growing other food crops like beans, maize, bananas and cassava. The present system of mono/sole cropping has failed to meet the diversified domestic needs of small holder farmers.

This necessitates a shift from mono cropping to inter/multiple cropping, which is being considered as an excellent strategy for intensifying land use and increasing income and production per unit area and time. Beyond its importance as a farming practice, intercropping often, offers the possibility of yield advantages relative to sole cropping through yield stability and improved yield. Since the conventional method of planting rice in monocultures does not permit intercropping, it is imperative to look for upland rice intercropping systems which have the potential of raising crops such as legumes to ensure that farmers maximize the benefits of intercropping.
Although intercropping in Uganda has been studied for sometime now, little is known on upland rice variety intercropping practices. MuZARDI proposes to carry out studies on rice-legume intercropping systems, in order to come up with recommended agronomic practices on intercropping rice with legumes while simultaneously ensuring maximum productivity and profitability from the intercrops. Studies will also be conducted to assess the effect of selected legumes (beans, ground nuts and soybean) on soil fertility in an attempt to come up with recommendations on the rice-legume intercrops that perform best in regard to soil fertility enhancement or maintenance.

Along with the above studies, the project is also exploring possibilities of enhancing upland rice marketability through improving rice market chains in the projects area of operation. Multi-stakeholder platforms will be provided for rice market chain actors (farmers, traders, processors, millers and input dealers) in the project target areas in order to obtain and employ ideas on how to enhance rice commercialisation which eventually would result in increased rice productivity among farmers. This approach aims at improving marketing and market access for farmers and all actors along the entire chain through improving collaboration, trust and strengthening/developing market chains of a specific commodity, in this case rice.

Study sites and methods

The rice intercropping project is being implemented on-station and in three districts of Kayunga, Luweero and Kiboga in the Lake Victoria. Rice variety NERICA 4 is being used as the main crop. The three crops which include maize, beans and ground nuts are intercropped with rice in 3 proportions as follows; 3:2, 4:2 and 4:3.

The proportions are applied in a Randomised Complete Block Design (RCBD) with three replicates.  

Major objective 

  • To enhance productivity and profitability in upland rice-based intercropping systems within the Lake Victoria Crescent Agro-ecological Zone.

Specific objectives

  • Generate information on existing rice intercropping systems (spacing, types of inter-crops, planting methods)
  • Establish the effect of intercropping on incidence of pests and diseases on intercrops.
  • Determine yields and soil fertility trends within rice intercropping systems
  • Determine the profitability of different rice-intercropping systems
  • Enhance multi-stakeholder platforms for improved rice marketability

Activities done;

  1. Surveys were conducted on existing rice intercropping systems and market chain and feedback on the findings was given in three districts.
  2.  Rice intercropping trials were set up for the last 2 seasons in the four districts of Mukono, Luwero, Kayunga and Kiboga and data was collected.

On-going activities; setting up more rice intercropping trials and data collection, soil sampling and analysis.

Partners in the project include; NaCRRI (Cereals program), Local government (Extension staff), NGOs (ZABTA) and Farmers.