, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 65-72

Root architecture of provenances, seedlings and cuttings of Melia volkensii: implications for crop yield in dryland agroforestry

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Abstract

Melia volkensii (Gürke) is being increasingly promoted as an on-farm tree in Kenya. Researchers' and farmers' views on its competitiveness with crops differ; research station studies have found it to be highly competitive whereas farmers do not consider it to be so. Because of difficulties in seed germination, it is probable that dissemination programmes will rely upon plants produced from root and stem cuttings, rather than on seedlings. This study evaluates differences in root system architecture of plants raised from seed (of four provenances), stem or root cuttings and the relationships between the competitivity index (CI) and crop yield. Cuttings were more shallowly rooting than seedlings, and had higher competitivity indices, and there was a negative relationship between CI and crop yield. No differences in root architecture between provenances were found. Therefore, to reduce tree-crop competition, the use of seedlings rather than cuttings should be recommended when promoting the use of this species on dryland farms. If cuttings are used to circumvent the problems of seed germination, alternative methods of controlling competition, such as root pruning, need to be considered.

This revised version was published online in November 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.