Effect of rainfall pattern on nitrogen mineralization and leaching in a green manure experiment in South Rwanda
The effects of green manures, sorghum residues and farmyard manure on N dynamics and crop yields were studied during three dry and wet seasons on a Typic Sombriudox in South Rwanda. In addition, a resin core study was conducted within a 4-year green manure field experiment to follow the seasonal pattern of N mineralization and leaching after application of residues from Tephrosia vogelii, Sorghum bicolor, a mixture of both materials, and farmyard manure.
During the dry season, topsoil (0–20 cm) mineral N remained constant. At the beginning of the wet season, the rainfall pattern determined N availability. With low rainfall intensities a mineralization flush occurred, doubling topsoil mineral N concentrations within 5 days after wetting. In contrast, under heavy rains at the onset of the rainy season, topsoil mineral N decreased by 50–70% within the first two weeks.
The application of organic fertilizers has a strong influence on N availability, but the effects can be negated by heavy rainfall. Incorporation of leaves from Tephrosia vogelii (2.7 t dm ha-1) and farmyard manure (7 t dm ha-1) doubled the mineralization flush after the first rains. During the rest of the wet season, N release by the green manure was small, whereas the farmyard manure was found to mobilize N after a period of N immobilization. Incorporation of sorghum residues had only a small effect, while mixing the straw with green and farmyard manure immobilized N temporarily.
Nitrogen leaching, measured by exchange resins at a depth of 20 cm, was increased up to 50% by the incorporation of green and farmyard manure. This points to rapid N translocation of easily mineralizable N. The additional incorporation of sorghum residues reduced N leaching of both materials significantly. Since rainfall is often unpredictable, the synchronization of N released from crop residues with crop N demand may require additional management practices.
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