Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 100, Issue 1, pp 35–51 | Cite as

Carbon and nutrient fluxes and balances in Nuba Mountains homegardens, Sudan

  • Sven Goenster
  • Martin Wiehle
  • Jens Gebauer
  • Abdalla Mohamed Ali
  • Andreas BuerkertEmail author
Original Article


Management intensification has raised concerns about the sustainability of homegardens in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan. This study aimed at assessing the sustainability of these agroecosystems following the approach of carbon (C) and nutrient balances. Three traditional (low input) and three intensified (high input) homegardens were selected for monitoring of relevant input and output fluxes of C, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The fluxes comprised those related to management activities (soil amendments, irrigation, and biomass removal) as well as estimates of biological N2 fixation, C fixation by photosynthesis, wet and dry deposition, gaseous emission, and leaching. Annual balances for C and nutrients amounted to −21 kg C ha−1, −70 kg N ha−1, 9 kg P ha−1 and −117 kg K ha−1 in high input homegardens and to −1,722 kg C ha−1, −167 kg N ha−1, −9 kg P ha−1 and −74 kg K ha−1 in low input homegardens. Photosynthesis C was the main C input flux with averaged of 7,047 and 5,610 kg C ha−1 a−1 in high and low input systems, respectively. Biological N2 fixation (17 kg N ha−1 a−1) was relevant only in low input systems. In both systems, the annual input of 77 kg K ha−1 through dust was highly significant and annual gaseous C losses of about 5,900 kg C ha−1 were the main C loss. In both garden types, the removal of biomass accounted for more than half of total nutrient exports of which one-third resulted from weeding and removal of plant residues and two-third from harvest. The observed negative nutrient balances may lead to a long-term decline of crop yields. Among other measures the reuse of C and nutrients in biomass removals during the cleaning of homegardens may allow to partially close C and nutrient cycles.


Gaseous emissions Horizontal fluxes Jubraka Leaching Soil pool 



The authors are thankful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for funding of this project (BU 1308/9-1 & GE 2094/1-1) and to Alexandra zum Felde for her careful revision of an earlier version of this paper. The analytical help of Eva Wiegard and Claudia Thieme is gratefully acknowledged. Furthermore, the authors’ special thanks go to the villagers of Sama for their hospitality, patience and infrastructural support and to the University of Karthoum for its logistical help and many fruitful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sven Goenster
    • 1
  • Martin Wiehle
    • 1
  • Jens Gebauer
    • 2
  • Abdalla Mohamed Ali
    • 3
  • Andreas Buerkert
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Organic Plant Production and Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics and SubtropicsUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany
  2. 2.Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems with Special Focus on HorticultureRhine-Waal University of Applied SciencesKleveGermany
  3. 3.Department of Horticulture, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of KhartoumShambatSudan

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