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  • 1
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Key words Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi ; Mucuna pruriens ; Nitrogen balance ; Relay cropping ; Indigenous rhizobial populations
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract  Leguminous cover crops such as Mucuna pruriens (mucuna) have the potential to contribute to soil N and increase the yields of subsequent or associated cereal crops through symbiotic N fixation. It has often been assumed that mucuna will freely nodulate, fix N2 and therefore contribute to soil N. However, results of recent work have indicated mucuna's failure to nodulate in some farmers' fields in the derived savanna in Benin. One of the management practices that can help to improve mucuna establishment and growth is the use of rhizobial inocula to ensure compatibility between the symbiotic partners. Experiments were conducted in 1995 and 1996 on 15 farmers' fields located in three different villages (Eglimé, Zouzouvou and Tchi) in the derived savanna in Benin. The aim was to determine the response of mucuna to inoculation and examine the factors affecting it when grown in relay cropping with maize. The actual amount of N2 fixed by mucuna in the farmers' fields at 20 weeks after planting (WAP) averaged 60 kg N ha–1 (range: 41–76 kg N ha–1) representing 55% (range: 49–58%) of the plant total N. The result suggested that mucuna in these farmers' fields could not meet its total N demand for growth and seed production only by N2 fixation. It was estimated that after grain removal mucuna led to a net N contribution ranging from –37 to 30 kg N ha–1. Shoot dry weight at 20 WAP varied between 1.5 and 8.7 t ha–1 and N accumulation ranged from 22 to 193 kg N ha–1. Inoculation increased shoot dry matter by an average of 28% above the uninoculated treatments, but the increase depended on the field, location and year. For the combinations of inoculated treatments and farmers' fields, the response frequency was higher in Eglimé and Tchi than in Zouzouvou. The response to inoculated treatments was dependent on the field and inversely related to the numbers of rhizobia in the soil. Soil rhizobial populations ranged from 0 to 〉188 cells g–1 soil, and response to inoculation often occurred when numbers of indigenous rhizobia were 〈5 cells g–1 soil. In two farmers' fields at Zouzouvou where extractable P was below 10 μg g–1 soil, mucuna did not respond to rhizobial inoculation despite a higher population of rhizobia. Significant relationships between mycorrhizal colonization, growth and nodulation of mucuna were observed, and inoculated plants with rhizobia had a higher rate of colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (%AMF) than uninoculated ones. Therefore, it was shown that mucuna will establish and fix N2 effectively in those fields where farmer's management practices such as good crop rotation and rhizobial inoculation allow a build up of AMF spores that might lead to a high degree of AMF infection and alleviate P deficiency.
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  • 2
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Key words Imperata ; Lablab ; Maize ; Soil fumigation ; Nematodes
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract  Populations of plant parasitic nematodes and their effects on symbiotic nitrogen (N) fixation in herbaceous legumes and on some selected characteristics of other plant species associated with such cover crops were studied. Two legume species [mucuna, Mucuna pruriens (L) DC. var. utilis (Wright) Bruck and lablab, Lablab purpureus L. Sweet], one grass/weed species [imperata, Imperata cylindrica (L.) Rauschel] and a cereal (maize, Zea mays L.) were used. There were three soil treatments (fumigation, fumigation plus inoculation with Meloidogyne species, and an untreated control). Plant parasitic nematode populations in soil, roots and nodules were determined at 4, 8 and 12 weeks after planting. The response of the phytoparasitic nematodes to soil treatments varied according to the plant species present. The predominant nematodes in soils, roots and nodules of legumes were of the genus Meloidogyne, whereas other genera of parasitic nematodes dominated the fauna in soils and roots of maize and imperata. Biomass yield of mucuna was not significantly affected by either Meloidogyne spp. or the other genera of phytoparasitic nematodes. In contrast, the dry matter yield of lablab measured at 12 weeks was reduced by 16% in inoculated compared with fumigated soils. Similarly, the biomass yields of maize and imperata were reduced by 10% and 29%, respectively, in unfumigated rather than fumigated soils. The amounts of N accumulated in mucuna, maize and imperata were not significantly affected by the two groups of plant parasitic nematodes. However, at 12 weeks, lablab grown on inoculated soils accumulated only 69% of the N found in plants grown on fumigated soils. Inoculation of soil with Meloidogyne spp. significantly increased the number of nodules on lablab roots compared with the non-inoculated treatments, whereas nodulation in mucuna was not affected by soil treatment. After 12 weeks, the quantity of N2 derived from symbiotic fixation in mucuna was not significantly affected by soil treatments whereas the amount of fixed N in lablab was 32% lower in inoculated than in fumigated soils. Possible mechanisms for the non-suppressive effect of plant parasitic nematodes on mucuna are discussed.
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  • 3
    ISSN: 1365-2389
    Source: Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
    Topics: Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: The use of ultrasonic energy for the dispersion of aggregates in studies of soil organic matter (SOM) fractionation entails a risk of redistribution of particulate organic matter (POM) to smaller particle-size fractions. As the mechanical strength of straw also decreases with increasing state of decomposition, it can be expected that not all POM will be redistributed to the same extent during such dispersion. Therefore, we studied the redistribution of POM during ultrasonic dispersion and fractionation as a function of (i) dispersion energy applied and (ii) its state of decomposition. Three soils were dispersed at different ultrasonic energies (750, 1500 and 2250 J g−1 soil) or with sodium carbonate and were fractionated by particle size. Fraction yields were compared with those obtained with a standard particle-size analysis. Undecomposed or incubated (for 2, 4 or 6 months) 13C-enriched wheat straw was added to the POM fraction (0.25–2 mm) of one of the soils before dispersion and fractionation. Dispersion with sodium carbonate resulted in the weakest dispersion and affected the chemical properties of the fractions obtained through its high pH and the introduction of carbonate. The mildest ultrasonic dispersion treatment (750 J g−1) did not result in adequate soil dispersion as too much clay was still recovered in the larger fractions. Ultrasonic dispersion at 1500 J g−1 soil obtained a nearly complete dispersion down to the clay level (0.002 mm), and it did not have a significant effect on the total amount of carbon and nitrogen in the POM fractions. The 2250 J g−1 treatment was too destructive for the POM fractions since it redistributed up to 31 and 37%, respectively, of the total amount of carbon and nitrogen in these POM fractions to smaller particle-size fractions. The amount of 13C-enriched wheat straw that was redistributed to smaller particle-size fractions during ultrasonic dispersion at 1500 J g−1 increased with increasing incubation time of this straw. Straw particles incubated for 6 months were completely transferred to smaller particle-size fractions. Therefore, ultrasonic dispersion resulted in fractionation of POM, leaving only the less decomposed particles in this fraction. The amounts of carbon and nitrogen transferred to the silt and clay fractions were, however, negligible compared with the total amounts of carbon and nitrogen in these fractions. It is concluded that ultrasonic dispersion seriously affects the amount and properties of POM fractions. However, it is still considered as an acceptable and appropriate method for the isolation and study of SOM associated with silt and clay fractions.
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  • 4
    ISSN: 1365-2389
    Source: Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
    Topics: Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: In tropical cropping systems with few external inputs, efficient management of mineral N derived from added organic residues is essential for the proper functioning of the system. We studied the dynamics of mineral nitrogen (N) in the top 100 cm of soil with a system of tensiometers and suction cups after applying 15N-labelled Leucaena leucocephala and Dactyladenia barteri residues to bare and cropped microplots installed in the respective alley cropping systems, and followed the fate of the N for two maize-cowpea rotations (1992 and 1993).Fifty days after applying the residues (DDA), 20% of the added residue N was found in the soil profile of the bare Leucaena treatment, and 5% under Dactyladenia, compared with 5% and 1%, respectively, where cropped. All values decreased to about 1% after 505 days. In the cropped soil, no mineral N derived from the residues was lost by leaching during the first 6 weeks.As the maize grew, the soil profile was gradually depleted of nitrate to near Zero in the Dactyladenia treatment, whereas during the cowpea season the amount of nitrate N increased to 36 kg N ha−1 for the Leucaena treatment, and 26 kg N ha−1 for the Dactyladenia treatment. The soil of the bare microplots contained substantially more nitrate N (98 and 47 kg N ha-1 during the first year on average, under Leucaena and Dactyladenia, respetively) than that of the cropped microplots, except during the 1993 cowpea season. Nitrate residing in the subsoil (80–100 cm) in the bare treatments was not readily leached to deeper soil. The risk of losses of native mineral N was greatest during the first 50 DAA and to a lesser extent during the cowpea seasons. Improved management of the hedgerows could increase the potential of the hedgerow trees to recycle mineral N.
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  • 5
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Key words Alley cropping ; Nitrogen availability ; Olsen phosphorus ; Particulate organic matter
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract  The impact of land use (unfertilized continuous maize cropping, unfertilized and fertilized alley cropping with maize, Gliricidia sepium tree fallow, natural fallow) on the soil organic matter (SOM) status and general soil fertility characteristics were investigated for a series of soils representative for the West African moist savanna zone. Three soils from the humid forest zone were also included. In an associated pot experiment, relationships between maize N and P uptake and SOM and general soil characteristics were developed. Soils under natural fallow contained the highest amount of organic C (1.72%), total N (0.158%), and had the highest effective cation exchange capacity (ECEC) [8.9 mEq 100 g–1 dry soil], while the Olsen P content was highest in the fertilized alley cropping plots (13.7 mg kg–1) and lowest under natural fallow (6.3 mg kg–1). The N concentration of the particulate organic matter (POM) was highest in the unfertilized alley cropping plots (2.4%), while the total POM N content was highest under natural fallow (370 mg N kg–1) and lowest in continuously cropped plots (107 mg N kg–1). After addition of all nutrients except N, a highly significant linear relationship (R 2=0.91) was observed between the total N uptake in the shoots and roots of 7-week-old maize and the POM N content for the savanna soils. POM in the humid forest soils was presumably protected from decomposition due to its higher silt and clay content. After addition of all nutrients except P, the total maize P uptake was linearly related to the Olsen P content. R 2 increased from 0.56 to 0.67 in a multiple linear regression analysis including the Olsen P content and clay content (which explained 11% of the variation in P uptake). Both the SOM status and N availability were shown to be improved in land-use systems with organic matter additions, while only the addition of P fertilizer could improve P availability.
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  • 6
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Decomposition ; N release ; Rainfall pattern ; Residue quality ; Hedgerow species
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract In alley-cropping systems, hedgerow trees are regularly cut back. Losses of N released from the decomposing prunings are minimized when N release is synchronized with crop N demand. In this study, the sensitivity of the decomposition of Leucaena leucocephala, Senna siamea, and Dactyladenia barteri leaf litter to the nature of the rainfall regime is correlated with the residue quality. The litterbag technique was used to measure decomposition. Four periods of 115 days, each starting at a time when hedgerow trees are normally pruned, were selected and the rain that fell during each of these periods in 1986 was simulated on a day-to-day basis by applying irrigation water on the litterbags. The number of rainfall events was better correlated with the percentage dry matter loss than with the total amount of precipitation. The relationship consisted of two lines. The slope of the first line, indicative of the sensitivity of the decomposition to varying numbers of rainfall events, correlated well with the watersoluble fraction (P〈0.05), the C:N ratio (P〈0.05), and the polyphenol: N ratio (P〈0.01) of the residues. The decomposition process was shown to be dominated by microbial catabolism, rather than leaching. Because the decomposition of the higher quality residues is affected by varying rainfall patterns and because rainfall may often be unpredictable in frequency and intensity, synchronization of N released from a significant part of the decomposing residue with crop N demand may require additional management practices.
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  • 7
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Key words Cover crops ; Mixed residues ; Microbial biomass ; N-mineralization ; Soil organic matter fractions
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract  The fate of 15N-labeled plant residues from different cover-cropping systems and labeled inorganic N fertilizer in the organic, soil mineral, microbial biomass and soil organic matter (SOM) particle-size fractions was investigated in a sandy Lixisol. Plant residues were from mucuna (legume), lablab (legume), imperata (grass), maize (cereal) and mixtures of mucuna or lablab with imperata or maize, applied as a surface mulch. Inorganic N fertilizer was applied as 15N-(NH4)2SO4 at two rates (21 and 42 mg N kg–1 soil). Total N release from mucuna or lablab residues was 2–3 times higher than from the other residues, whereas imperata immobilized N throughout the study period. In contrast, 15N was mineralized from all the plant residues irrespective of the mineralization–immobilization pattern observed for total N. After 168 days, 69% of soil mineral N in mucuna- or lablab-mulched soils was derived from the added residues, representing 4–8% of residue N, whereas 9–30% of inorganic N was derived from imperata, maize and the mixed residues. At the end of the study, 4–19% of microbial biomass N was derived from the added residue/fertilizer-N, accounting for 1–3% of added residue-N. Averaged across treatments, particulate SOM fractions accounted for less than 1% of the total soil by weight but contained 20% of total soil C and 8% of soil N. Soils amended with mucuna or lablab incorporated more N in the 250–2000 μm SOM pool, whereas soil amended with imperata or the mixed residues incorporated similar proportions of labeled N in the 250–2000 μm and 53–250 μm fractions. In contrast, in soils receiving the maize or inorganic fertilizer-N treatments, higher proportions of labeled N were incorporated into the 53–250 μm than the 250–2000 μm fractions. The relationship between these differences in residue/fertilizer-N partitioning into different SOM particle-size fractions and soil productivity is discussed.
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  • 8
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Key words Imperata ; Mulch ; Lablab ; Maize ; Mucuna
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract  Reliable estimates of symbiotically fixed N2 in herbaceous legumes are important in order to determine their role in maintaining or improving N levels in tropical low-external-input farming systems. We have studied the effects of different management systems on the suitability of two non-N2-fixing reference crops, imperata [Imperata cylindrica (L.) Rauescel] and maize (Zea mays L.), for estimating N2 fixation in mucuna [Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC var. utilis (Wright) Bruck] and lablab [Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet] in the field. The total-N-difference (TND) method of estimating N2 fixation was compared to the 15N-isotope-dilution (ID) technique. The two methods did not differ with respect to estimates of N2 fixation under in situ mulch (IM) systems. In contrast, under live-mulch (LM) systems the TND method underestimated N2 fixed in mucuna by 29% and in lablab by 40% compared to estimates made with the ID method. Irrespective of the treatment, estimates of N derived from fixation in both herbaceous legumes were not influenced by either of the reference plants. Using the ID technique, the proportion of N2 derived from fixation in mucuna and lablab at 12 weeks varied from 52% to 90% depending on whether the treatments were N fertilized, inoculated or uninoculated, cover-crop systems. In view of the nature of cover-crop systems in the derived savanna of West and Central Africa, where imperata is usually present as a weed or maize is grown in IM or LM systems, imperata or maize could be used to estimate N2 fixation and N contributions of the legumes to soil fertility and subsequent crop improvements.
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  • 9
    ISSN: 1573-5036
    Keywords: 14C labeled maize-straw ; fractionation ; microbial biomass ; non-linear regression ; priming effect
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract This paper describes an incubation experiment with homogeneously 14C labeled maize-straw and its insoluble fraction. The role of the soluble fraction in the decomposition process was assessed, using three independently measured characteristics: (1) fractionation of the maize-straw, resulting in kinetically different fractions; (2) microbial biomass C and its 14C activity determined by a fumigation extraction method, and (3) the 14C activity of the released CO2-C. The fumigation extraction method was proved to be useful from 9 days after the application of the maize-straw onwards. The fractionation method yielded a soluble (48%), a (hemi) cellulosic (47%), and a lignin fraction (1%). Nine days after addition of either the complete residue or its insoluble fraction, the microbial biomass C increased from 53 to 337 and 217 mg C kg-1 dry soil, respectively. Similar values were maintained up to day 40. The large increase in microbial activity was accompanied by a N-immobilization of 65 and 29 mg N Kg-1 dry soil for the maize-straw treatment and its insoluble fraction, respectively, resulting in biomass C/N values of 5.5 and 5.6 A genuine priming effect (10 and 7% of the total CO2-C production) on the mineralization of native soil organic C was caused by an increase in decomposition of the native C rather than by an increase in turnover of the microbial biomass in the soil amended with maize straw. The soluble fraction caused a ‘priming effect’ on the decomposition of the less decomposable cell-wall fraction. Calculations by nonlinear regression confirmed this observation.
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  • 10
    ISSN: 1573-5036
    Keywords: decomposition ; isotope dilution ; 15N ; mineralization ; nodulation ; N use efficiency ; residue management
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract Alley cropping is being widely tested in the tropics for its potential to sustain adequate food production with low agricultural inputs, while conserving the resource base. Fast growth and N yield of most trees used as hedgerows in alley cropping is due greatly to their ability to fix N2 symbiotically with Rhizobium. Measurements of biological N2 fixation (BNF) in alley cropping systems show that some tree species such as Leucaena leucocephala, Gliricidia sepium and Acacia mangium can derive between 100 and 300 kg N ha-1 yr−1 from atmospheric N2, while species such as Faidherbia albida and Acacia senegal might fix less than 20 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Other tree species such as Senna siamea and S. spectabilis are also used in alley cropping, although they do not nodulate and therefore do not fix N2. The long-term evaluation of the potential or actual amounts of N2 fixed in trees however, poses problems that are associated with their perennial nature and massive size, the great difficulty in obtaining representative samples and applying reliable methodologies for measuring N2 fixed. Strategies for obtaining representative samples (as against the whole tree or destructive plant sampling), the application of 15N procedures and the selection criteria for appropriate reference plants have been discussed. Little is known about the effect of environmental factors and management practices such as tree cutting or pruning and residue management on BNF and eventually their N contribution in alley cropping. Data using the 15N labelling techniques have indicated that up to 50% or more of the tree's N may be below ground after pruning. In this case, quantification of N2 fixed that disregards roots, nodules and crowns would result in serious errors and the amount of N2 fixed may be largely underestimated. Large quantities of N are harvested with hedgerow prunings (〉300 kg N ha-1 yr-1) but N contribution to crops is commonly in the range of 40–70 kg N ha-1 season. This represents about 30% of N applied as prunings; however, N recoveries as low as 5–10% have been reported. The low N recovery in maize (Zea mays) is partly caused by lack of synchronization between the hedgerow trees N release and the associated food crop N demand. The N not taken up by the associated crop can be immobilized in soil organic matter or assimilated by the hedgerow trees and thus remain in the system. This N can also be lost from the system through denitrification, volatilization or is leached beyond the rooting zone. Below ground contribution (from root turnover and nodule decay) to an associated food crop in alley cropping is estimated at about 25–102 kg N ha-1 season-1. Timing and severity of pruning may allow for some management of underground transfer of fixed N2 to associated crops. However many aspects of root dynamics in alley cropping systems are poorly understood. Current research projects based on 15N labelling techniques or 15N natural abundance measurements are outlined. These would lead to estimates of N2 fixation and N saving resulting from the management of N2 fixation in alley cropping systems.
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