Plant and Soil

, Volume 231, Issue 2, pp 187–199 | Cite as

Alley cropping with Senna siamea in South-western Nigeria: I. Recovery of 15N labeled urea by the alley cropping system

  • B. Vanlauwe
  • N. Sanginga
  • R. Merckx


Improved cropping systems with in-situ production of organic matter require the input of additional inorganic N to maintain crop production in a sustainable way. For proper management of this fertilizer-N, it is necessary to quantify how the applied fertilizer N is used by the various components of the system and by the system as a whole. The fate of a single application of 15N labeled urea-N through the different components (crop, hedgerow, surface litter, soil profile up to 150 cm) of a Senna siamea alley cropping system, intercropped with maize in the first and cowpea in the second season, was followed for a period of 1.5 years (1994–1995), equivalent to 2 maize and 1 cowpea crop. Special attention was given to the role of the particulate organic matter (POM) in the cycling of urea-N through the soil organic matter (SOM). The maize crop recovered 26.5 and 1.7% of the applied urea-N at harvest in 1994 and 1995, respectively. The cowpea pods recovered only 0.7% of the applied urea-N at harvest. The highest proportion of applied urea-N recovered by the hedgerow occurred at 38 days after 1994 maize planting (DAP) (3.8%), while at later dates, recoveries of applied urea-N were always below 1%. This indicates that the Senna hedge is not a strong competitor for the applied urea-N during crop growth, i.e. while the Senna canopy is pruned at regular intervals. At 21 DAP, 12.7% of the applied urea-N was recovered in the surface litter and this value dropped significantly to 1.6% at 107 DAP and remained below 1% up to 480 DAP. The top 10 cm of soil contained 21% of the applied urea-N at 21 DAP and this value dropped to 9% at 480 DAP. Significantly more urea-N was recovered in the top 10 cm of soil than in the deeper soil layers at all sampling times. At 21 DAP, 11% of the applied urea-N was recovered in the 120–150 cm layer. This fast movement of urea-derived N to deep soil layers must have happened by preferential flow in macropores as the rainfall between urea application and the first sampling (74.2 mm) was not high enough to explain downward movement of N with the mobile water. Significant linear relationships between the proportion of urea-N in the different soil layers (excluding 0–10 cm) and the anion exchange capacity (AEC) and silt+clay content of the respective layers were found at 67, 107, 347 and 480 DAP. The total N content of the POM fraction increased significantly between 0 and 101 DAP from 127 to 171 mg N kg−1 and decreased to 92 mg N kg−1 at 480 DAP. The highest recovery of applied urea-N in the POM pool was measured at 101 DAP (3.6%) and this value decreased to 1.8% at 480 DAP. The total recovery of applied urea-N was 81% at 21 DAP, and decreased to values varying between 53 and 60% up from 38 to 347 DAP. At 480 DAP, the recovery decreased further to 47%. The fast movement of a substantial amount of urea-N may be responsible for this incomplete recovery, already at 21 DAP. Although the soil N status in the fertilized alley cropping system appears to be favourable for plant growth, this may be short-lived in the absence of further urea additions, as the soil-derived maize uptake in 1995 was already significantly lower than in 1994, and as the labile POM pool decreased significantly between the maize harvest in 1994 and 1995.

anion exchange capacity cowpea maize N balance particulate organic matter 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Vanlauwe
    • 1
  • N. Sanginga
    • 1
  • R. Merckx
    • 2
  1. 1.Soil Microbiology, IITAIbadanNigeria
  2. 2.Laboratory of Soil Fertility and Soil Biology, Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological SciencesK.U. LeuvenHeverleeBelgium

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