Abstract– An experiment was conducted to determine the effect of tillage practices on moisture retention and maize performance under rainfed conditions in Swaziland. The five treatments were based on structure of seedbed and seed planting method. They were ; zero tillage where jab planter was used to directly seed (JAB), tractor drawn planter to directly seed without ploughing (TDSS), tractor drawn cultivator to loosen soil followed by planting with tractor planter (TDRDS), planting basics made by using hand hoe (PLB) and conventional tillage (CNT) which was used as a control. The treatments were replicated three times. The data collected included weather data, germination counts, plant height, moisture retention, total dry matter and dry grain yield. The results displayed a significant difference in terms of moisture retention for the majority of the periods where measurements were done (p<0.05). Conventional tillage retained the least moisture while JAB retained the most moisture. In terms of seed emergence, TDRDS had the highest emergence during the first seven days compared to the other treatments. Conventional tillage had the tallest plants (268.5 cm) compared to the other treatments at 21 days after planting. Conventional tillage also had the highest total dry matter (16.2 tons/ha) and planting basins had the lowest dry matter (12.6 tons/ha). TDRDS had the highest grain yield (9.9 tons/ha), and JAB had the lowest grain yield (9.1 tons/ha). The difference in mean total dry matter and mean grain yield was not significant (p>0.05).
Keywords-Germination, maize, moisture, tillage, yields.
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