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Maize-legume rotation and intercropping

Maize-legume: Savings in Soil, Growth in Profit

This practice harnesses biological nitrogen fixation in legume roots, benefiting the productivity of rotated or intercropped maize crops. Assimilated nitrogen is transferred between the crops through soil processes. Mineral fertilizer application is highly efficient, and intercropping alleviates weed infestation, soil erosion, and run-off. Certain legumes reduce parasitic Striga weed infestations in maize, further enhancing crop health. Tall maize crops regulate soil temperature and improve water productivity.


This technology is TAAT1 validated.


Scaling readiness: idea maturity 7/9; level of use 8/9

ROI: $$$ 0.5—1 tons

maize grain yields increase in yield/ha

30—70 kilograms

of nitrogen carried over from soybean to maize crops




  • Nutrient limitation in subsistence farming systems: In subsistence farming, there is often a lack of essential nutrients like nitrogen in the soil, hindering plant growth and reducing crop yields.
  • High nitrogen fertilizer expenses in commercial farming systems: Commercial farmers face significant costs associated with nitrogen-based fertilizers, impacting their profitability and economic sustainability.
  • Weed infestation, leading to reduced crop productivity: Weeds compete with crops for resources, resulting in lower crop yields and making it harder for farmers to meet their production goals.
  • Pest and disease outbreaks impacting crop health: Pest and disease outbreaks can cause extensive damage to crops, affecting both quality and quantity, leading to financial losses for farmers.
  • Risk of hunger season due to crop failure caused by drought or pest attacks: Subsistence farmers are at risk of food scarcity if their crops fail due to factors like drought or pest attacks, which can have serious consequences for household nutrition and well-being.


  • Enhanced Soil Fertility through Nitrogen Fixation: Utilizes biological nitrogen fixation in legumes to enrich soil with essential nutrients, promoting healthier plant growth and increased crop yields.
  • Cost-Effective Nitrogen Management: Reduces dependency on expensive synthetic fertilizers by naturally fixing nitrogen from the air through maize-legume rotation and intercropping.
  • Natural Weed Control: Effectively manages weed growth by keeping more land covered and protected throughout the growing season, leading to minimized weed infestation and enhanced overall crop productivity.
  • Pest Resilience through Intercropping: Intercropping with specific legumes reduces infestations of harmful Striga weeds in maize crops, enhancing crop health and resilience against pests.
  • Risk Mitigation for Food Security: Cultivating two complementary crops on the same land reduces the risk of complete crop failure, ensuring a more reliable and balanced food supply, and contributing to enhanced food security for subsistence farmers.

Key points to design your business plan

Using the maize-legume rotation and intercropping technology enhances crop productivity, promotes sustainable agriculture, and contributes to food security and economic sustainability.

In order to use the technology efficiently, you should : 

  • Evaluate your farm's compatibility for mixed cultivation and choose suitable varieties tailored to local conditions.
  • Obtain high-quality maize and legume seeds.
  • Secure mineral fertilizers and legume inoculants if needed.
  • Enhance outcomes by forging partnerships with agricultural development organizations, fertilizer providers, and agricultural service firms to offer assistance and facilitate distribution.

Positive or neutral impact

Adults 18 and over
Positive high
The poor
Positive high
Under 18
Positive low
Positive high

Positive or neutral impact

Climate adaptability
It adapts really well
Adaptability for farmers
It helps a lot
It helps them grow and thrive
Carbon footprint
It reduces emissions a little
It makes a big difference
Soil quality
It makes the soil healthier and more fertile
Water usage
It uses the same amount of water

Countries with a green colour
Tested & adopted
Countries with a bright green colour
Countries with a yellow colour
Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia Algeria Angola Benin Botswana Burundi Burkina Faso Democratic Republic of the Congo Djibouti Côte d’Ivoire Eritrea Gabon Gambia Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Cameroon Kenya Libya Liberia Madagascar Mali Malawi Morocco Mauritania Mozambique Namibia Niger Nigeria Republic of the Congo Rwanda Zambia Senegal Sierra Leone Zimbabwe Somalia South Sudan Sudan South Africa Eswatini Tanzania Togo Tunisia Chad Uganda Western Sahara Central African Republic Lesotho
Countries where the technology has been tested and adopted
Country Tested Adopted
Benin Tested Adopted
Burkina Faso Tested Adopted
Cameroon Tested Adopted
Democratic Republic of the Congo Tested Adopted
Ethiopia Tested Adopted
Ghana Tested Adopted
Kenya Tested Adopted
Malawi Tested Adopted
Mozambique Tested Adopted
Nigeria Tested Adopted
Rwanda Tested Adopted
Tanzania Tested Adopted
Uganda Tested Adopted

This technology can be used in the colored agro-ecological zones. Any zones shown in white are not suitable for this technology.

Agro-ecological zones where this technology can be used
AEZ Subtropic - warm Subtropic - cool Tropic - warm Tropic - cool

Source: HarvestChoice/IFPRI 2009

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that are applicable to this technology.

Sustainable Development Goal 1: no poverty
Goal 1: no poverty
Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger
Goal 2: zero hunger
Sustainable Development Goal 3: good health and well-being
Goal 3: good health and well-being
Sustainable Development Goal 13: climate action
Goal 13: climate action
Sustainable Development Goal 12: responsible production and consumption
Goal 12: responsible production and consumption

  • Select Compatible Varieties: Choose maize and legume varieties that complement each other in growth.
  • Prepare the Land: Clear debris, plow, and create well-drained beds.
  • Planting: Sow maize in rows, leaving space for legumes in between.
  • Weed Control: Keep the area weed-free, especially in the early stages.
  • Fertilize and Monitor: Apply nutrients as needed, and monitor for pests and diseases.
  • Water Management: Provide sufficient water for both crops.
  • Harvest Separately: Harvest maize and legumes when they reach maturity.
  • Post-Harvest Handling: Clean, dry, and store each crop appropriately.

Last updated on 10 July 2024