Integrating legumes to improve N cycling on smallholder farms in sub-humid Zimbabwe: resource quality, biophysical and environmental limitations

R. Chikowo, P. Mapfumo, P.A. Leffelaar, K.E. Giller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The release of mineral-N in soil from plant residues is regulated by their `quality¿ or chemical composition. Legume materials used by farmers in southern Africa are often in the form of litter with N concentration 5 Mg ha¿1) and improved N cycling significantly (>150 kg N ha¿1) on the clay loam soil, but adapted poorly on the sandier soil. There was a rapid N accumulation in the topsoil at the beginning of the rains in plots where large amounts of Sesbania or Acacia biomass had been incorporated. Despite the wide differences in resource quality between these two, there was virtually no difference in N availability in the field as this was, among other factors, confounded by the quantity of N added. A substantial amount of the nitrate was leached to greater than 0.4 m depth within a three-week period. Also, the incidence of pests in the first season, and drought in the second season resulted in poor nitrogen use efficiency. Our measurements of gaseous N losses in the field confirmed that N2O emissions were
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-231
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Volume76
Issue number2-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • soil fertility management
  • nitrogen mineralization
  • organic-matter
  • maize
  • dynamics
  • leaves
  • productivity
  • emissions
  • residues
  • release

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