Decomposition of organic amendment and nutrient release under the zai technique in the Sahel uri icon

abstract

  • In the West African Sahel, farmers use the zai technique to reclaim degraded cropland. Although the nutrients released by the decomposition of the amendments are central to the success of the technique, little is known regarding the impact of the zai pits on the decomposition process and whether the nutrient release is synchronized with plant requirements. The decomposition of millet stalks and cattle manure applied in zai pits or at the soil surface was studied in Niger using litterbags, under controlled irrigation on-station in 1999 and on-farm in 1999 and 2000 at two locations (Damari and Kakassi) with contrasting soils. In addition, a satellite trial was conducted in 2000 on-farm at the same locations to study the relative contribution of termites to manure decomposition. Only at Damari did termite presence enhance manure decomposition, by a factor three for surface placement compared to the zai pits. At Damari, zai pits enhanced the decomposition when termite activity was suppressed. Whereas manure decomposition proceeded two to three times faster than that of millet stalks at Damari, the type of amendment had no effect on decomposition rate at Kakassi. Nutrient release followed the trend of organic amendment decomposition except for K. When applied prior to the rainy season, nutrient release rate of organic amendments strongly exceeded plant nutrient uptake, which could lead to important leaching losses during the first 4?6 weeks after sowing, especially for N and to a lesser extent for K. However, at harvest, total nutrient absorption by plants was generally higher than the total amount released. The results indicate a highly site-specific response of amendment decomposition to zai and the need for a better timing of amendment application to reduce potential leaching losses, possibly through a split application

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009