Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 121-129

Nitrogen-fixation dynamics in a cut-and-carry silvopastoral system in the subhumid conditions of Guadeloupe, French Antilles

  • M. DulormneAffiliated withUnité Agropédoclimatique de la Zone Caraïbe, Domaine Duclos, INRA
  • , J. SierraAffiliated withUnité Agropédoclimatique de la Zone Caraïbe, Domaine Duclos, INRA Email author 
  • , P. NygrenAffiliated withCenter for Agroforestry, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • , P. CruzAffiliated withStation d'Agronomie de Toulouse, INRA

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This paper summarizes several studies on N recycling in a tropical silvopastoral system for assessing the ability of the system to increase soil fertility and insure sustainability. We analyzed the N2 fixation pattern of the woody legume component (Gliricidia sepium), estimated the recycling rate of the fixed N in the soil, and measured N outputs in tree pruning and cut grass (Dichanthium aristatum). With this information, we estimated the N balance of the silvopastoral system at the plot scale. The studies were conducted in an 11-year-old silvopastoral plot established by planting G. sepium cuttings at 0.3 m × 2 m spacing in natural grassland. The plot was managed as a cut-and-carry system where all the tree pruning residues (every 2-4 months) and cut grass (every 40-50 days) were removed and animals were excluded. No N fertilizer was applied. Dinitrogen fixation, as estimated by the 15N natural abundance method, ranged from 60-90% of the total N in aboveground tree biomass depending on season. On average, 76% of the N exports from the plot in tree pruning (194 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) originated from N2 fixation. Grass production averaged 13 Mg ha–1 yr–1 and N export in cut grass was 195 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1. The total N fixed by G. sepium, as estimated from the tree and grass N exports and the increase in soil N content, was about 555 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1. Carbon sequestration averaged 1.9 Mg [C] ha–1 yr–1 and soil organic N in the 0-0.2 m layer increased at a rate of 166 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1, corresponding to 30% of N2 fixation by the tree. Nitrogen released in nodule turnover (10 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) and litter decomposition (40 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) contributed slightly to this increase, and most of the recycled N came from the turnover or the activity of other below-ground tree biomass than nodules.

Carbon sequestration Gliricidia sepium Nitrogen balance 15N natural abundance Pruning tree roots