Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 67–78 | Cite as

Root distribution of Acioa barteri, Alchornea cordifolia, Cassia siamea and Gmelina arborea in an acid Ultisol

  • B. A. Ruhigwa
  • M. P. Gichuru
  • B. Mambani
  • N. M. Tariah


A major constrait to alley cropping is the competition of tree or shrub roots with those of companion food crops for available water and nutrients in the topsoil. Root distribution patterns of Acioa barteri, Alchornea cordifolia, Cassia siamea and Gmelina arborea grown on an acid Ultisol at Onne in the humid forest zone of southeastern Nigeria were examined to a depth of 120 cm and laterally to 200 cm from the tree trunk to study the suitability of the species for alley cropping. The four woody species have roots throughout the soil profile examined but differ in the concentration of roots both laterally and vertically. Alchornea cordifolia, Cassia siamea and Gmelina arborea, in spite of higher underground biomass production, most of their fine roots (<2 mm diameter) were in the top 20 cm of the soil. This soil layer had 73%, 76%, and 74% of the total Alchornea cordifolia, Cassia siamea, and Gmelina arborea fine roots in the profile examined, respectively. Such root systems would compete with food crops for nutrients and moisture in the surface soil. Alchornea cordifolia and Gmelina arborea have many large woody roots in the surface soil which will make any tillage operation or seedbed preparation difficult. Acioa barteri in contrast, has the desirable rooting system with fewer fine roots in the surface soil (49%), and roots that are concentrated close to tree trunk and decrease markedly away from the tree base. In addition, Acioa barteri roots penetrate deeper soil horizons and can result in more efficient nutrient cycling from these layers, and reduced competition with shallow-rooted food crops. The rooting distribution patterns of Acioa barteri indicated that the species is a promising alley shrub in acid soils of the humid forest ecology. Therefore, consideration of rooting characteristics of potential tree/shrub species is recommended for the development of agroforestry systems such as alley cropping.

Key words

alley cropping root distribution shrubs trees Ultisol 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. A. Ruhigwa
    • 1
  • M. P. Gichuru
    • 1
  • B. Mambani
    • 2
  • N. M. Tariah
    • 3
  1. 1.International Institute of Tropical AgricultureIbadanNigeria
  2. 2.Institut Facultaire des Sciences AgronomiquesKisanganiZaire
  3. 3.Rivers State University of Science and TechnologyPort HarcourtNigeria

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