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Soil fertility maintenance with organic amendments to orange fleshed sweetpotato

Abstract

Smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa traditionally cultivate orange-fleshed sweetpotato without soil fertility management, leading to soil nutrient mining and thereby threatening future food security. We set out to determine the potential of locally-accessible organic amendments and weed biomass management to secure crop nutritional quality and yield while maintaining soil fertility. Orange-fleshed sweet potato was fertilized with sole or co-application of poultry manure, cowpea residue, and inorganic fertilizer, combined with removal or incorporation of biomass residue from the fallow period. Non-amended control represented current farmers practice. Poultry manure fertilization, in sole or co-application with inorganic fertilizer, maintained storage root yield from the first to the second season, averaging 7.7 t ha−1. Conversely, non-amended control decreased storage root yield by 61% from the first to the second season. Poultry manure with weed biomass incorporation maintained total soil C and N at 14.4 g kg−1 and 1.1 g kg−1, respectively, after two growing seasons. Poultry manure co-applied with inorganic fertilizer decreased total C and N by 15% and 14% respectively. The changes in soil total C and N observed in this experiment provide basis to support management recommendations for farmers focusing on locally-sourced organic amendments. Poultry manure is the more reliable organic amendment to maintain sweet potato agricultural performance and soil fertility, with potential to support long-term sweet potato cultivation. The negative effect of inorganic fertilizer on total soil nutrient concentration after two seasons needs consideration to avoid soil fertility mismanagement.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Mercator Foundation through the ETH Zurich World Food System Center, and by the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Students. We appreciate the help of Jose Ricardo and Alfredo Pessane with field work, Britta Jahn Humphrey, Matti Barthel and Bjorn Studer for laboratory support. Thank you to the staff at the International Potato Center in Mozambique and the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique for their help with handling and transporting samples.

Funding

Mercator Foundation, through ETH Zurich World Food System Center and the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Students.

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Conceptualization: E.I.P.P., R.F.C and J.S; Methodology: E.I.P.P., R.F.C; Formal analysis and investigation: E.I.P.P., R.F.C; Writing—original draft preparation: R.F.C; Writing—review and editing: R.F.C., E.I.P.P., J.S., M.I.A; Funding acquisition: E.I.P.P., J.S.; Resources: J.S., M.I.A.; Supervision: E.I.P.P., M.I.A., J.S.

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Correspondence to Engil Isadora Pujol Pereira.

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Conz, R.F., Six, J., Andrade, M.I. et al. Soil fertility maintenance with organic amendments to orange fleshed sweetpotato. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 119, 213–229 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-020-10111-8

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Keywords

  • Organic fertilizer
  • Poultry manure
  • Weed biomass incorporation
  • Crop residue