Organic inputs for soil fertility management in tropical agroecosystems: Application of an organic resource database

C.A. Palm, C.N. Gachengo, R.J. Delve, G. Cadisch, K.E. Giller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

402 Citations (Scopus)


Organic resources play a critical role in both short-term nutrient availability and longer-term maintenance of soil organic matter in most smaller holder farming systems in the tropics. Despite this importance, there is little predictive understanding for the management of organic inputs in tropical agroecosystems. In this paper, an organic resource database (ORD) is introduced that contains information on organic resource quality parameters including macronutrient, lignin and polyphenol contents of fresh leaves, litter, stems and/or roots from almost 300 species found in tropical agroecosystems. Data on the soil and climate from where the material was collected are also included, as are decomposition and nutrient release rates of many of the organic inputs. Examples of uses of ORD are provided in the paper: (1) nutrient contents (including median values and ranges) and other resource quality parameters of farmyard manure and crop residues are compared to that of alternative nutrient sources such as different plant parts and plant types; (2) nutrient stocks found in farm boundary hedges are estimated and evaluated as a source of nutrients for soil fertility management; (3) hypotheses regarding the indices and critical values of N, lignin, and polyphenol contents for predicting N release rates are tested; (4) organic materials for soil fertility management experiments are selected. This database, when coupled with models and decision support tools, will help advance organic matter management for soil fertility improvement from an empirical to a predictive practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-42
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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