Soil Water Use Efficiency under Integrated Soil Management Practices in the Drylands of Kenya

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Soil moisture scarcity and soil fertility decline in the drylands contribute to declining crop productivity. The possible synergistic effects of integrating soil & water conservation, and soilfertility management practices on soil moisture, and hence water use efficiency (WUE) in thedrylands of Tharaka-Nithi County in Kenya was assessed. The experiment was laid in a three bythree split plot arrangement, with four replications, for four cropping seasons. Minimum tillagewith mulch, tied ridges, and conventional tillage formed the main plot factors. The sub-plotfactors included animal manure plus fertilizer at 120, 60, and 30 N kg ha− 1. There was significant improvement in soil moisture by 35 and 28% by minimum tillage with mulch and tied ridges,respectively, compared to conventional tillage. Manure plus fertilizer rates of 120 and 60 N kgha− 1 had significantly lower soil moisture by 12 and 10%, respectively than the 30 N kg ha− 1across the seasons. The WUE was significantly enhanced by 150 and 65% under minimum tillagewith mulch and tied ridges, respectively, compared to conventional tillage. Compared with 30 Nkg ha− 1, the 120 N kg ha− 1 and 60 kg ha− 1 significantly enhanced the WUE by 66 and 25%,respectively. Across the seasons, the best treatment combination for improving WUE was minimum tillage with mulch at 120 N kg ha− 1 rate of manure plus fertilizer.