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Growth and nutrient accumulation of Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) in agroforestry at different fertilizer levels


The Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) is a frequent component of agroforestry systems in the Amazon because of its adaptation to nutrient-poor upland soils and multiple uses. We investigated the aboveground biomass production (kg dry weight), nutrient uptake and requirements (N, P, Ca, Mg, K) of Brazil nut trees of different sizes grown under agroforestry conditions and fertilized at different levels. Eight of 70 experimental trees with different size were harvested and stem, branches and leaves were separated. Nutrient contents were determined for three trees of varying size. Average tree growth was fast, but variability was high, suggesting considerable potential for the improvement of this economically important species. The trees responded to increased levels of fertilizer and lime with significantly increased foliar nutrient contents and growth, probably because of the improved availability of Mg and Ca for which the species seems to have a relatively high demand. In contrast to Brazil nut trees grown in forest or dense plantations, the agroforestry trees invested a substantial part of their biomass and nutrients in large branches and developed spreading crowns. To improve stem form, reduce competition with associated crops for light and recycle nutrients, regular pruning of lower branches or planting arrangements that favor self-pruning are recommended. These measures would also increase the recycling of Ca and Mg, large quantities of which are contained in the branches.

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Sammya Agra D’Angelo helped in the field work. J. Ferraz made valuable comments on an earlier version of the text.

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Correspondence to Götz Schroth.

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Project funding: This research was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Brazilian Conselho National de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).

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Schroth, G., da Mota, M.S.S. & de Assis Elias, M.E. Growth and nutrient accumulation of Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) in agroforestry at different fertilizer levels. J. For. Res. 26, 347–353 (2015).

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