Symbiotic N2-fixation, N uptake efficiency, biomass- and crop production of cowpea and maize as affected by P source, sole- and intercropped, and introduction of break crops were studied on a farmer’s fields in semi-arid Tanzania. Cowpea fixed around 60% of its N from the atmosphere amounting to 70 kg N ha−1 under sole and 36 kg N ha−1 under intercropping as estimated by the 15N isotope dilution method around peak biomass production. The amount of N2-fixed was 30–40% higher when P was applied as either TSP or MRP whereas cowpea yield were unaffected. Intercropped maize with 19,000 plant ha−1 accumulated the same amount of N as 38,000 sole cropped maize plants although intercropping reduced the dry matter accumulation by 25%. The N uptake efficiency of the applied 15N labelled fertiliser was 26%, which equal a total pool of early available plant N of 158 kg N ha−1. Under the N deficient conditions, P application did not increase the grain yield of maize. The LER indicate that sole cropping required 18% more area than intercropping in order to produce the same grain yield, and 35% more land when LER was based on N uptakes. Introduction of break crops in the maize systems, more than doubled accumulation of dry matter and N in the grain compared to continuous maize cropping. During maturation sole crop cowpea shedded leaves containing 41 kg N ha−1. The current findings underline the importance of crop diversity in Sub Saharan Africa agriculture and emphasise the need for including all residues, including shedded leaves, in nutrient balance studies.