Nitrogen dynamics in cropping systems in southern Malawi containing Gliricidia sepium, pigeonpea and maize uri icon

abstract

  • This study tested the hypothesis that incorporation of green leaf manure (GLM) from leguminous trees into agroforestry systems may provide a substitute for inorganic N fertilisers to enhance crop growth and yield. Temporal and spatial changes in soil nitrogen availability and use were monitored for various cropping systems in southern Malawi. These included Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp. trees intercropped with maize (Zea mays L.), with and without pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.), sole maize, sole pigeonpea, sole gliricidia and a maize + pigeonpea intercrop. Soil mineral N was determined before and during the 1997/1998, 1998/1999 and 1999/2000 cropping seasons. Total soil mineral N content (NO3- + NH4+) was greatest in the agroforestry systems (p < 0.01). Pre-season soil mineral N content in the 0-20 cm horizon was greater in treatments containing trees (<= 85 kg N ha(-1)) than in those without (< 60 kg ha(-1); p < 0.01); however, soil mineral N content declined rapidly during the cropping season. Uptake of N was substantially greater in the agroforestry systems (200-270 kg N ha(-1)) than in the maize + pigeonpea and sole maize treatments (40-95 kg N ha(-1); p < 001). Accumulation of N by maize was greater in the agroforestry systems than in sole maize and maize + pigeonpea (p < 0.01); grain accounted for 55% of N uptake by maize in the agroforestry systems, compared to 41-47% in sole maize and maize + pigeonpea. The agroforestry systems enhanced soil fertility because mineralisation of the applied GLM increased pre-season soil mineral N content. However, this could not be fully utilised as soil N declined rapidly at a time when maize was too small to act as a major sink for N. Methods for reducing losses of mineral N released from GLM are therefore required to enhance N availability during the later stages of the season when crop requirements are greatest. Soil mineral N levels and maize yields were similar in the gliricidia + maize and gliricidia + maize + pigeonpea treatments, implying that addition of pigeonpea to the tree-based system provided no additional improvement in soil fertility.
  • This study tested the hypothesis that incorporation of green leaf manure (GLM) from leguminous trees into agroforestry systems may provide a substitute for inorganic N fertilisers to enhance crop growth and yield. Temporal and spatial changes in soil nitrogen availability and use were monitored for various cropping systems in southern Malawi. These included Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp. trees intercropped with maize (Zea mays L.), with and without pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.), sole maize, sole pigeonpea, sole gliricidia and a maize + pigeonpea intercrop. Soil mineral N was determined before and during the 1997/1998, 1998/1999 and 1999/2000 cropping seasons. Total soil mineral N content (NO3â?? + NH4+) was greatest in the agroforestry systems (p<0.01). Pre-season soil mineral N content in the 0â??20 cm horizon was greater in treatments containing trees (â?¤85 kg N haâ??1) than in those without (<60 kg haâ??1; p<0.01); however, soil mineral N content declined rapidly during the cropping season. Uptake of N was substantially greater in the agroforestry systems (200â??270 kg N haâ??1) than in the maize + pigeonpea and sole maize treatments (40â??95 kg N haâ??1; p<001). Accumulation of N by maize was greater in the agroforestry systems than in sole maize and maize + pigeonpea (p<0.01); grain accounted for 55% of N uptake by maize in the agroforestry systems, compared to 41â??47% in sole maize and maize + pigeonpea. The agroforestry systems enhanced soil fertility because mineralisation of the applied GLM increased pre-season soil mineral N content. However, this could not be fully utilised as soil N declined rapidly at a time when maize was too small to act as a major sink for N. Methods for reducing losses of mineral N released from GLM are therefore required to enhance N availability during the later stages of the season when crop requirements are greatest. Soil mineral N levels and maize yields were similar in the gliricidia + maize and gliricidia + maize + pigeonpea treatments, implying that addition of pigeonpea to the tree-based system provided no additional improvement in soil fertility

publication date

  • 2006
  • 2006
  • 2006