CU-1, Using Improved Pulse Crop Productivity to Reinvigorate Smallholder Mixed Farming Systems in Western Kenya.

Cornell University as lead university           

Using Improved Pulse Crop Productivity to Reinvigorate Smallholder Mixed Farming Systems in Western Kenya

U.S. PIs & Institutions and Collaborating Host Countries

Lead U.S.:
Julie Lauren Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Beth Medvecky, CU, U.S.
Alice Pell, CU, U.S.
John Duxbury, CU, U.S.
Peter Hobbs, CU, U.S.
Rebecca Stoltzfus, CU, U.S.
Christopher Barrett, CU, U.S.
John Ojiem, KARI, Kenya
Martins Odendo, KARI, Kenya
Samuel Mwonga, Egerton University, Kenya
John Okalebo, Moi University, Kenya
John Nderitu, University of Nairobi, Kenya
James Muthomi, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Robin Buruchara, CIAT, Uganda

CU-1 Workplan FY 08_09.pdf  CU-1 Workplan FY10.pdf


  1. To develop and assess farmer capacity for improving vigor and growth of pulse crops on nutrient accumulation, pest/disease resistance and system productivity across a soil degradation gradient.
  2. To disseminate and evaluate through participatory approaches simple, low cost strategies for vigorous establishment/growth of pulse crops leading to increased system productivity and sustainability.
  3. To investigate factors (nutrients, pest/diseases and their interactions) affecting pulse productivity across a soil degradation gradient.
  4. To facilitate and support on-farm participatory research opportunities for Kenyan agricultural scientists and graduate students.
  5. Capacity building

Problem Statement:

Many rural households in the East African highlands are no longer self-sufficient in beans, a critical source of food and income. Farmers‘ inability to afford fertilizer inputs, coupled with continuous cropping on ever shrinking land holdings, has led to degraded and infertile soils and a concomitant decline in crop vigor, pest and disease tolerance and overall system productivity.

Target Outputs:

  • Identification of biophysical environments in the East African Highlands where vigor enhancing strategies will have the most impact for addressing pests and diseases of pulse crops. Target domains will be based on pest/disease incidence and severity of pulse crops across a soil degradation gradient and assessments of vigor enhancing strategies (root rot tolerant bean varieties, seed priming, phosphorus fertilizers, combining organic-inorganic fertilizers, boma compost) in providing tolerance to identified pest and disease pressures.
  • Identification of socio-ecological niches in the East African Highlands where lablab (variety Rongai) can be used most successfully for food, income generation, livestock feed and/or replenishing soil fertility for enhancing crop vigor. Niches will be based on the agronomic performance of lablab, smallholder farmers‘ choices for utilizing lablab grain/biomass and its impacts on vigor and growth of subsequent maize production across a soil fertility degradation gradient.
  • Multipurpose cowpea varieties identified for production of both grain and biomass for food, income and rebuilding soil fertility; that perform well under the biophysical conditions of Western Kenya and are acceptable to smallholder farmers.
  • Locally relevant nutrient composition database developed for lablab, cowpea, and common bean (grain, leaf) grown under Western Kenya‘s varying soil fertility conditions to aid policy decision-making for meeting human nutrition goals through the food system.
  • Project-related extension materials developed and disseminated to promote adoption and aid scaling up of vigor enhancing strategies for Highland mixed farming systems based on lessons learned from participatory activities including farmer preferences, constraints, innovations, technology impacts and adoption trends.
  • Increased capacity of mid-career professionals from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Ministry of Agriculture to address technical pulse crop production issues using participatory research approaches.