Phosphorus availability under alley cropping and mulched and unmulched sole cropping systems in Costa Rica
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Phosphorus availability was measured in soils under five cropping systems: alley cropping with Erythrina poeppigiana, alley cropping with Gliricidia sepium, sole cropping with Erythrina poeppigiana mulch applied, sole cropping with Gliricidia sepium mulch applied, sole cropping with no mulch. The following parameters were measured: 1) plant-available soil P assessed by P uptake of maize and bean bioassay plants; 2) phosphate desorbable by anion exchange resin; 3) adsorption of added P into isotopically exchangeable and non-exchangeable pools.
In the bioassay, P uptake of beans declined in the order: mulched sole-cropped>unmulched sole-cropped>alley-cropped soils. For maize the relative uptake was: mulched sole-cropped>unmulched sole-cropped = alley-cropped soils. These results suggest trees had not incorporated a significant quantity of P into the system after seven years and, probably, there was a decrease in available soil P due to the sequestration of P in the tree biomass. Potentially resin-desorbable P was higher in alley-cropped and mulched sole-cropped soils than in unmulched sole-cropped soils. The adsorption and desorption of added P into and from exchangeable and non-exchangeable pools did not differ between alley-cropped and unmulched sole-cropped soils.
Crop yield and crop N, P and K uptake were all higher in the alley crops than in the unmulched sole crop. The supply of P to the crop under alley cropping seems to be dependent on P cycled and released from the mulch. The P cycle in alley cropping appears to be self-sustaining at least under conditions of moderate P fertiliser input.
Key wordsalley cropping beans Erythrina Gliricidia humid tropics isotopically exchangeable P maize mulching phosphorus cycle P desorption
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