Mixed-species legume fallows affect faunal abundance and richness and N cycling compared to single species in maize-fallow rotations uri icon

abstract

  • Rotation of nitrogen-fixing woody legumes with maize has been widely promoted to reduce the loss of soil organic matter and decline in soil biological fertility in maize cropping systems in Africa. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of maize-fallow rotations with pure stands, two-species legume mixtures and mixed vegetation fallows on the richness and abundance of soil macrofauna and mineral nitrogen (N) dynamics. Pure stands of sesbania (Sesbania sesban), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), tephrosia (Tephrosia vogelii), 1:1 mixtures of sesbania + pigeon pea and sesbania + tephrosia, and a mixed vegetation fallow were compared with a continuously cropped monoculture maize receiving the recommended fertilizer rate, which was used as the control. The legume mixtures did not differ from the respective pure stands in leaf, litter and recycled biomass, soil Ca, Mg and K. Sesbania + pigeon pea mixtures consistently increased richness in soil macrofauna, and abundance of earthworms and millipedes compared with the maize monoculture (control). The nitrate-N, ammonium-N and total mineral N concentration of the till layer soil (upper 20 cm) of pure stands and mixed-species legume plots were comparable with the control plots. Sesbania + pigeon pea mixtures also gave higher maize grain yield compared with the pure stands of legume species and mixed vegetation fallows. It is concluded that maize-legume rotations increase soil macrofaunal richness and abundance compared with continuously cropped maize, and that further research is needed to better understand the interaction effect of macrofauna and mixtures of organic resources from legumes on soil microbial communities and nutrient fluxes in such agro-ecosystems
  • Rotation of nitrogen-fixing woody legumes with maize has been widely promoted to reduce the loss of soil organic matter and decline in soil biological fertility in maize cropping systems in Africa. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of maize-fallow rotations with pure stands, two-species legume mixtures and mixed vegetation fallows on the richness and abundance of soil macrofauna and mineral nitrogen (N) dynamics. Pure stands of sesbania (Sesbania sesban), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), tephrosia (Tephrosia vogelii), 1:1 mixtures of sesbania + pigeon pea and sesbania + tephrosia, and a mixed vegetation fallow were compared with a continuously cropped monoculture maize receiving the recommended fertilizer rate, which was used as the control. The legume mixtures did not differ from the respective pure stands in leaf, litter and recycled biomass, soil Ca, Mg and K. Sesbania+pigeon pea mixtures consistently increased richness in soil macrofauna, and abundance of earthworms and millipedes compared with the maize monoculture (control). The nitrate-N, ammonium-N and total mineral N concentration of the till layer soil (upper 20 cm) of pure stands and mixed-species legume plots were comparable with the control plots. Sesbania + pigeon pea mixtures also gave higher maize grain yield compared with the pure stands of legume species and mixed vegetation fallows. It is concluded that maize-legume rotations increase soil macrofaunal richness and abundance compared with continuously cropped maize, and that further research is needed to better understand the interaction effect of macrofauna and mixtures of organic resources from legumes on soil microbial communities and nutrient fluxes in such agro-ecosystems. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2008
  • 2008
  • 2008