The impact of tillage system and herbicides on weed density, diversity and yield of cotton (Gossipium hirsutum L.) and maize (Zea mays L.) under the smallholder sector
The study was carried out to evaluate the impact of tillage system in combination with different herbicides on weed density, diversity, crop growth and yields on 18 farms in Kadoma, Zimbabwe. Experiments were set up as a split plot design with three replications on each farm. Tillage was the main plot (Conservation Tillage (CT), Conventional Tillage (CONV)) and weeding option (hand weeding, cyanazine, atrazine, glyphosate only and mixture of cyanazine þ alachlor and atrazine þ alachlor) as the sub-plots. Due to the heterogeneous nature of farmers’ resource base, the farms were grouped into three farm types: high (Type 1), medium (Type 2) and poorly resourced farmers (Type 3). The hand hoe weeded treatments had 49 percent higher total weed densities in CT relative to CONV, and was statistically similar to the glyphosate treatment. The mixed pre-emergence herbicides reduced the diversity indices by 69 and 70 percent when compared to the hand hoe weeded treatment under CT in cotton and maize, respectively. The effectiveness of all pre-emergence herbicides were not influenced by tillage but were affected by farmers resource endowments with pronounced effect in Farm Type 1. Maximum plant heights of 85 and 238 cm were recorded for mixed pre-emergence herbicides under CT for cotton and maize, respectively. Minimum plant heights of 75 and 217 cm were recorded for the respective hand hoe weeded treatments. The hand hoe weeded treatments resulted in average cotton lint yield of 1497 and 2018 kg ha 1 for maize. The mixed pre-emergence herbicides treatments gave yields of 2138 and 2356 kg ha 1 of cotton and maize, respectively. The higher weed densities in CT under hand weeded treatments underscored the need for other weeding options. Similarly, a mixture of cyanazine þ alachlor in cotton and atrazine þ alachlor in maize is recommended for suppressing broad and grass weed populations and enhancing yields in CT systems.