Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Forage production and nitrogen nutrition in three grasses under coconut tree shades in the humid-tropics

  • C. B. PandeyEmail author
  • S. K. Verma
  • J. C. Dagar
  • R. C. Srivastava


Reduction in forage production (FP) under trees in the humid tropics is well known, but information on how different levels of nitrogen (N) fertilizer influence FP under trees is meager. The present study reports effects of four N fertilizer levels (0, 60, 80 and 120 kg ha−1 N) on net soil N mineralization rate (NMR) and soil moisture (SM), FP, shoot biomass/root biomass ratio (SB/RB), N concentration in SB, N uptake and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of three grasses [guinea (Panicum maximum Jacq.), para (Brachiaria mutica (Forssk) Stapf) and hybrid-napier (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.)] under three canopy positions [under canopy (UC, representing high shade), between canopy (BC, representing low shade) and open] of coconut trees (Cocos nucifera L.) in a coconut based silvopastoral system in the humid tropical climate of South Andaman Island of India. The study was performed for two annual cycles (2005–2006 and 2006–2007). The hypotheses tested were: (1) FP would decline under tree shades, both in N fertilized as well as no N fertilized conditions, when SM was not growth limiting in the open. However, amount of decline in the FP would depend on grass species and intensity of shades i.e., higher was the shade greater would be the decline; (2) N fertilizer would increase FP under tree shades, but the increase depended on grass species, intensity of shades and amount of N applied. Amount of N applied, however, would not annul the shades effects when SM was not growth limiting in the open. The study revealed that the tree reduced light 59% under UC and 32% under BC positions, but the N fertilizer levels increased NMR by 11–51% under UC and 3–44% under BC positions compared to the open. SM did not differ across the canopy positions. Under all situations, FP of all grasses declined under UC (47–78%) and BC (18–32%) positions compared to the open; the decline was greater in Hybrid-napier than Guinea and Para grasses. Forage production of all grasses increased with N fertilizer increments under all canopy positions reaching 32 t ha−1 dry matters for hybrid-napier at 120 kg ha−1 N in the open. Both guinea and para grasses outyielded hybrid-napier grass under UC but not under BC or in the open. N concentration in the forage (SB) also increased as N fertilizer level increased. These observations support our hypotheses and suggest that forage production under coconut palms can be increased by the application of N fertilizer with both guinea and para grasses being more productive than hybrid-napier grass under the high shade. Where light conditions are better, hybrid-napier would produce more forage than the other species.


Competitive interaction Soil moisture Shoot/root ratio Net soil N-mineralization rate High rainfall Tree shades 



The study was funded by the Central Agricultural Research Institute under Institute Project Scheme of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India. Authors are thankful to two anonymous reviewers and the associate editor for their valuable suggestions on the manuscript, and to Dr. O. P. Chaturvedi for technical check, Dr. S. N. Pandey for editing English language, and Dr. Manish Sharma for helping with statistical analysis of data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. B. Pandey
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. K. Verma
    • 1
  • J. C. Dagar
    • 2
  • R. C. Srivastava
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Agricultural Research InstitutePort BlairIndia
  2. 2.Central Soil Salinity Research InstituteKarnalIndia

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