Many farmers plant cassava in between the maize at the beginning of the main rainy season. Some farmers grow another maize crop during the second wet season. But with rainfall being unpredictable, farmers risk harvesting little or no maize at all. If crops are grown in the same field every year, and the land is not fertilised, the soil becomes exhausted and yields of the main season’s crops start to fall.
Just like cowpeas and beans, mucuna is a natural fertilizer and herbicide. A legume crop that fixes nitrogen from the air. Most of this nitrogen is stored in the leaves and grains. But when these legumes are harvested for food or fodder, most of this stored nitrogen is removed from the field.
Mucuna grain, on the other hand, is difficult for people to eat. Its creeping vines produce a lot of leaves and its grains are left on the field to fertilise it.
As mucuna completely covers the soil, it also helps to destroy different weeds, such as imperata and striga.
How to Sow Mucuna and Maize
Mucuna is grown in between maize rows during the main rainy season.
To make it easy to plant the mucuna, start by planting your maize in rows, leaving 80 centimetres between rows and 40 centimetres between plants. Ropes with marked intervals make this job much easier. Drop two maize seeds in each planting hole.
To prevent mucuna from smothering your maize, sow mucuna when your maize is at least 60 days old. Weed your maize field before sowing mucuna.
Sow about 60 kg of mucuna seed per hectare to ensure a good soil cover. Drop two mucuna seeds per hill, every 40 centimetres, in between the maize rows.
After you harvest your maize, the mucuna keeps growing for a while after the end of the rainy season. The thick layer of mucuna mulch gradually decomposes and helps to conserve soil moisture. Depending on the amount of weeds, sow your maize directly in the mucuna mulch without ploughing your field.