Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 133–145 | Cite as

Seasonal pattern of nitrogen mineralization and soil moisture beneath Faidherbia albida (synAcacia albida) in central malawi

  • C. Rhoades

Abstract

On fertile alluvial soils on the lakeshore plain of Malawi, maize (Zea mays L.) yields beneath canopies of large Faidherbia albida (synAcacia albida) trees greatly exceed those found beyound tree canopies, yet there is little difference in soil nutrients or organic matter. To investigate the possibility that soil nutrient dynamics contribute to increased maize yields, this study focused on the impact of Faidherbia albida on nitrogen mineralization and soil moisture from the time of crop planting until harvest. Both large and small trees were studied to consider whether tree effects change as trees mature.

During the first month of the rainy season, a seven-fold difference in net N mineralization was recorded beneath large tree canopies compared to rates measured in open sites. The initial pulse beneath the trees was 60 μg N g−1 in the top 15 cm of soil. During the rest of the cropping cycle, N availability was 1.5 to 3 times higher beneath tree canopies than in open sites. The total production of N for the 4-month study period was 112 μg N g−1 below tree canopies compared to 42 μg N g−1 beyond the canopies. Soil moisture in the 0–15 cm soil layer was higher under the influence of the tree canopies. The canopy versus open site difference grew from 4% at the beginning of the season to 50% at the end of the cropping season.

Both N mineralization and soil moisture were decreased below young trees. Hence, the impact of F. albida on these soil properties changes with tree age and size. While maize yields were not depressed beneath young F. albida, it is important to realize that the full benefits of this traditional agroforestry system may require decades to develop.

Key words

Faidherbia albida parcland soil nitrogen mineralization soil moisture 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Rhoades
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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