Nitrogen mineralization and maize yields following application of tree prunings to a sandy soil in Zimbabwe

S. Zingore, P. Mafongoya, P. Nyammugafata, K.E. Giller

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the promotion of prunings as sources of nitrogen for crops, lack of synchronization between N mineralization from prunings and plant uptake remains a major limitation to the impact of prunings on crop yields. A laboratory and a field experiment were therefore carried out to determine the mineralization patterns of selected prunings and assess the potential that exists to improve synchrony by mixing prunings of different quality. The laboratory incubation experiment was conducted for 84 days to determine the C and N release patterns of prunings of different quality and the manipulation of the C and N mineralization trends by mixing prunings of different quality. High quality prunings were considered to be those with high CO2 evolution rates and mineralize N rapidly. The % C and % N released in 84 days were highest for the high quality prunings of Tithonia diversifolia (70% and 30% respectively) and least for the low quality prunings of Flemingia macrophylla (25% and -5% respectively). The medium quality prunings of Acacia angustissima and Calliandra calothyrsus had similar proportions of released C and N (about 40% C and 10% N). Different mixtures of T. diversifolia with other species showed contrasting influence on C release and N mineralization. Most mixtures released less C than that predicted, but in contrast most mixtures released N at a rate either matching or above the predicted. The % N released was strongly correlated with the polyphenol protein binding capacity (r2 = 0.53) and also with the % C released (r2 = 0.62). The field experiment was done for two cropping seasons to determine the effects of the prunings of these species and their mixtures on maize grain yield. The prunings were added at 5 t ha-1 and incorporated into the top 15 cm by hand hoeing in the first season and their residual effects were monitored in the second season. Medium and low quality prunings produced significantly (p <0.05) higher maize grain yields in the first season ranging between 2.4 t ha-1 and 3.4 t ha-1 compared with T. diversifolia which produced 1.7 t ha -1. This suggested better synchrony in N release and uptake by maize with medium and low quality prunings compared with high quality prunings. The only mixture that indicated improved synchrony was the mixture of T. diversifolia and C. calothyrsus. This study showed that mixing prunings of different quality produce different patterns of N mineralization, some of which were unexpected and had a potential for improving N synchrony.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-211
JournalAgroforestry Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • litter
  • release
  • quality

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