We studied the effects of potassium (K) and its interactions with nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and harvest time on the productivity, water use efficiency (WUE) and radiation use efficiency (RUE) of cassava under rain-fed conditions. A field experiment was conducted during two consecutive years on K-deficient soils in Djakakope and on relatively K-rich soils in Sevekpota in Southern Togo, West Africa. Fifteen fertiliser combinations involving K and N rates of 0, 50 and 100 kg ha−1 each, and P rates of 0, 20 and 40 kg ha[sbnd]1 were tested. Monthly measurements of leaf area index from 3 to 11 months after planting and daily weather data were used to estimate light interception, RUE, potential water transpiration and WUE of cassava. Overall WUE was 3.22 g dry matter kg−1 water transpired and RUE was 1.16 g dry matter MJ−1 intercepted photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). On the K-deficient soils, application of K increased WUE and RUE by 36–41% compared with 2.81 g dry matter kg−1 water transpired and 0.92 g dry matter MJ−1 intercepted PAR achieved without K, respectively. However, the effect of K on cassava growth depended on N availability. Applications of N had relatively weak effects on RUE and WUE, but induced a positive correlation between RUE/WUE and K mass fractions in the plant, and increased the cumulative amount of light intercepted by 11–51%, and the cumulative amount of water transpired through increased leaf area by 13–61%. No significant effect of P on WUE and RUE was observed. Increased cassava yields could be achieved under rain-fed conditions in West Africa through enhanced K management to increase RUE and WUE, along with sufficient N supply for improved light interception and water transpiration by the crop.
- Leaf area index
- Light interception
- Potential water transpiration