Usage and impacts of technologies and management practices in Ethiopian smallholder maize production
Maize yields can be improved through many individual technologies and management practices, but the full realization of potential benefits is generally understood to require integrated use of complementary practices. We employed two years of survey data and alternative econometric models to better understand the use of individual and bundled packages of technologies and management practices in Ethiopian maize production, i.e., fertilizers, improved varieties, herbicides, pesticides, manure, intercropping, erosion control and crop rotation (the last three labeled integrated management). Although fertilizer and improved varieties were used on 85% of maize fields, with average yields of 3.4 ton/ha, large yield gaps remain. Complementary management practices improved these yields by as much as 22%, although in variable ways. Integrated management contributed to maize yield only when combined with crop protection (herbicides and/or pesticides). Combining manure with fertilizer and improved variety decreased maize yields, possibly due to manure quality and less inorganic fertilizer used on fields that received manure. Packages including crop protection increased labor productivity by 16–70%, while using integrated management decreased labor productivity by almost half. In summary, the combination of management practices did not automatically lead to increased yields, partly related to the conditions under which practices were applied, indicating the need for site-specific research and recommendations for sustainable intensification.