Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 61, Issue 1–2, pp 143–158 | Cite as

Soil organic carbon (SOC) management for sustainable productivity of cropping and agro-forestry systems in Eastern and Southern Africa

  • Stephen M. Nandwa


In Eastern and Southern Africa, the shifting from the no-external input agriculture (shifting cultivation through slash and burn) to intensified agricultural systems has resulted in widespread agro-ecosystems with high soil organic carbon and nutrient depletion. This is quite evident in farming systems with reduced fallow period or those that practice continuous cropping without or with little inputs. Long-term experiments indicate that losses of up to 0.69 t carbon ha−1 yr−1 in the soil surface layers are common. Such losses are commonly reported by farmers engaged in participatory community-based research development projects. This calls for judicious strategies for recapitalization or replacement of these depletions. Such strategies include direct SOC replenishment through addition of organic materials, notably manures, wastes, residues and plant litter; biomass transfer; incorporation of improved fallows in the farming systems. Indirect contribution to SOM replenishment or recapitalization may be achieved through inorganic fertilizations and amendments; legume integration in the production system; and combined inorganic and organic inputs. Research is required to identify inputs that help meet both nutrients availability while contributing to SOC build up at the same time.

inorganics organic materials soil organic carbon management soil productivity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AHI (1997) African Highland Initiative, Phase I Report. ICRAF, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  2. Araki S (1993) effect on soil organic matter and soil fertility of the Chitemene slash-burn-burn practice used in Northern Zambia. In: Mulongoy K & Merkx R (eds) Proceeding Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Sustainability of Tropical Agriculture. Chichester: Wiley-SayceGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrios E Buresh R J & JI Sprent (1995) Soil organic matter fractionation: A comparison of some available methods. In: M Gichuru & P Woomer (eds). The Biological Management of Soil Fertility: Proceedings of the Fifth Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Programme (TSBF) African Network Meeting, Entebbe, Uganda; 14-19 May, 1995, pp 2–4Google Scholar
  4. Barrios E Kwesiga F Buresh R J & JI Sprent (1997) Light fraction soil organic matter and available nitrogen following trees and maize. Soil Sci Soc Amer J. 61: 826–831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braun AR, Smaling EMA, Muchugu EI, Shepherd KD & Corbett JD (1997) Maintenance and improvement of soil productivity in the highlands of Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda. An inventory of spatial and non-spatial survey and research data on natural resources and land productivity. AHI Technical Report series no 6. African Highlands Initiative, ICRAF, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  6. Brokensha D, Warren DM & O Werner (1980) Indigenous knowledge systems and development. Lanham (USA): United Press of AmericaGoogle Scholar
  7. Brouwers JHAM (1993) Rural peoples' response to soil fertility decline. The Adja case (Benin). A Doctor of Philosophy thesis No. 93–4 of the Wageningen Agricultural University papersGoogle Scholar
  8. Buresh RJ, Sanchez PA & Calhan F (eds.) (1997) Replenishing Soil Fertility in Africa. SSSA Special Publication, vol. 51. Madison, WI, USA, p 251Google Scholar
  9. Buresh RJ & Niang AI (1997) Tithonia diversifolia as a green manure: awareness, expectations and realities. Vantage Point Agroforestry Forum vol. 8. No. 3: 29–31Google Scholar
  10. Cope JT & Evans CE (1985) Soil testing. Adv. Soil Sci 1: 201–230Google Scholar
  11. Crosson P & Anderson JR (1995) Achieving a Sustainable Agriculture System in Sub-Saharan African. Building Blocks for Africa 2025, Paper No. 2. Towards Environmentally Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, A World Bank Perspective. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Detwiler RP (1985) Land use change and the global carbon cycle: the role of tropical soils. Biogeochemistry 2(1): 67–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Villiers AK (1996) Quantifying Indigenous Knowledge: A rapid method for assessing crop performance without field trials. Agricultural Research and Extension Network (AgREN) Network Paper No. 66Google Scholar
  14. Djokoto RK & D Stephens (1961) Thirty long-term experiments under continuous cropping in Ghana. II. Soil studies in relation to the effects of fertilizers and manure on crop yields. Empire J Experimental Agriculture 29: 245–258Google Scholar
  15. Doran JW & Smith MS (1987) Organic Matter Management and Utilization of Soil and Fertilizer Nutrients (pp 53–72). In: SSSA Special Publication Number 19Google Scholar
  16. Drechsel P & Gyiele LA (1999) The economic assessment of soil nutrient depletion: Analytical issues for framework. International Board for Soil Research and Management. Issues in Sustainable Land Management No. 7. Bangkok, IBSRAM, 80 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Fairhead J (1992) Indigenous technical knowledge and natural resources management in sub-Saharan Africa: a critical overview. Paper Natural Resources Institute, Chartham, UKGoogle Scholar
  18. Follet RH, Gupta SC & Hunt PG (1987) Conservation Practices: Relation to the Management of Plant Nutrients for Crop Production. Soil Sci Soc Amer J Special No. 19. pp 19–51Google Scholar
  19. Foster HL (1973) Fertilizer recommendation for cereals grown on soils derived from volcanic rocks in Uganda. E Afr Agric For J 38: 303–313Google Scholar
  20. FURP (1987) Description of the First Priority Trial Sites in the Various Districts, vol. 1-31. KARI, FURP, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  21. FURP (1994) Fertilizer Use Recommendations, Vol. 1-23. KARI, FURP, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  22. Gikonyo E & Oduor POS (1996) Effect of continuous usage of DAP in acid soils. KARI, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  23. Giller KE, Cadish C, Ehaliotis C, Adams E, Sakala WD & Mafongoya PL (1997) Building Soil Nitrogen Capital in Africa. In: Buresh RJ, Sanchez PA & Calhoun F (eds) Replenishing Soil Fertility in Africa. SSSA Special Publication No. 51, pp 151–192Google Scholar
  24. Gitari JN, Matiri FM & Kariuki I (1994) Nutrient Monitoring (NUTMON) Project: Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to define farm types in Embu district of Kenya. KARI, Embu, Kenya. 30 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Grant PM (1967) The fertility of Sandveld soil under continuous cultivation. Part III: The effect of manure and nitrogen on fertilizers on the nitrogen status of the soil. Soil Science Society of South Africa report.Google Scholar
  26. Hartemink AE, Buresh RJ, Jama B & Janssen BH (1996) Soil nitrate and water dynamics in sesbania fallows, weed fallows and maize. Soil Sci Soc Am J 60, 568–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Izac AMN (1997) Developing policies for soil carbon management in tropical regions. Geoderma 79: 261–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Janssen BH, Guiking FCT, van der Eijk D, Smaling EMA, Wolf J & van Reuler H (1990) A system for quantitative evaluation of the fertility of tropical soil (QUEFTS). Geoderma 46: 299–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones E (1972) Principles of using fertilizers to improve red ferraltic soils in Uganda. Experimental Agriculture. Agric. 8: 315–332Google Scholar
  30. Kapkiyai FK, Woomer PL, Qureshi JN, Smithson P & N Karanja (1996) Effect on fertilizer and organic inputs on soil organic matter and nutrient dynamics in a Kenyan Nitisol. Paper presented in the International Symposium on Carbon and Nutrient Dynamics in Natural and Agricultural Tropical Ecosystems, Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 April-4 May, 1996Google Scholar
  31. Kato MSA, Kato OR, Denich M & Vlek PLG (1999) Fire-free alternatives to slash-and-burn for shifting cultivation in the eastern Amazon region: the role of fertilizers. Field Crops Research 62: 225–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kihanda (1996) The role of farmyard manure in improving maize production in the sub-humid highlands of Central Kenya. PhD Thesis, The University of Reading, UKGoogle Scholar
  33. Kihanda FM, Wood M & O'Neill MK (1998) Effect of lime, farm yard manure and NP fertilizer on maize yield and soil chemical characteristics in an Ando-humic Nitisol of Central Kenya. A paper presented in the 6th Eastern and Southern Africa RegionalMaize Conference, 21-25 September, 1998, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaGoogle Scholar
  34. Kihanda FM & Warren GP (1998) Maintenance Soil Fertility and Organic Matter in Dryland area. Proceedings of a workshop held at Embu, 27-28 November, 1997.Google Scholar
  35. Kumwenda JDT, Waddington SR, Snapp SS, Jones RB & Blackie M (1995) Soil Fertility Management Research for the Smallholder Maize-Based Cropping Systems of Southern Africa: A Review. Network Research Working Paper Number 1. Soil Fertility Network for Maize-Based Cropping Systems in Countries of Southern Africa. CIMMYT Maize Programme. Zimbabwe: CIMMYTGoogle Scholar
  36. Kwenah KM, Otieno CO, Okalebo JR & Okwach GE (1999) The effect of soil fertility management and cropping systems on changes in soil chemical properties and maize yields in a semi-arid area of Eastern Kenya (in press)Google Scholar
  37. Larson WE, Clapp CE, Pierre WH & Morachan YB (1972) Effects of increasing amounts of organic residues on continuous corn: II, organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur, Agronomy Journal 64: 204–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Leigh RA & Johnston AE (1994) Long-term experiments in Agricultural and Ecological Sciences. Proceedings of a conference to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Rothamsted Experimental Station, held at Rothamsted, 14-17 July, 1993. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  39. Magid J, Gorisson A & Giller KE (1996) In search of the elusive "active" fraction of soil organic matter: Three size-density fractionation method for tracing the fate of homogenously 14C labelled plant materials in soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28: 89–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maobe SN, Wanyama J, Njue E & Mogaka L (1994) Nutrient Monitoring (NUTMON) Project: Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to define farm types in Kisii and Nyamira districts of Kenya. 35 ppGoogle Scholar
  41. Maroko JB, Buresh RJ & Smithson PC (1998) Soil nitrogen availability as affected by fallow-maize systems on two two soils in Kenya. Biol. Fertil. Soils 2b: 229–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mureithi JG, Tayler RS & Thorpe W (1996) Effect of the application of dairy cattle slurry and intercropped with cowpeas on the performance of mainze in coastal lowland Kenya. African Crop Sci J 4(3): 315–324.Google Scholar
  43. Nandwa SM, Munyi V, Kamau GM & Busienei PT (1994) Nutrient Monitoring (NUTMON) Project: Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to define farm types in Kilifi district of Kenya. 18 pp.Google Scholar
  44. Ndiritu CG, Kiome RM & Nandwa SM (1999) Strategies for sustainable productivity of cropping systems under global change with particular reference to Sub-Saharan Africa (in press)Google Scholar
  45. Nyathi P (1993) The effect of tree leaf litter, manure, inorganic fertilizer, and their combinations on above-ground biomass production, and grain yield of maize. In: Seward PD & Swift MJ (eds) Report of AfNet IV Workshop, Harare, Zimbabwe. July 20-26, 1993, pp 13–14Google Scholar
  46. Nye PH & Greenland DJ (1960) The soil under shifting cultivation. Technical communication No. 51. Harpenden: Commonwealth Bureau of SoilsGoogle Scholar
  47. Nye PH & Greenland DJ (1964) Changes in the soil after cleaning tropical forest, Plant and Soil 21: 101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ogaro VN, Odendo M, Otieno K & Akhwale M (1994) Nutrient Monitoring (NUTMON) Project: Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRS) to finetune farm types in Kakamega and Vihiga districts of Kenya. 22 ppGoogle Scholar
  49. Palm CA, Myers RJ & Nandwa SM (1997) Combined Organic and Inorganic Nutrient Sources for Soil Fertility Maintenance and Replenishment. In: Buresh RJ, Sanchez PA & Calhoun F (eds). Replenishing Soil Fertility in Africa. SSSA Special Publication No. 51., pp 193–217Google Scholar
  50. Parr JF, Papendick RI & Colacicco D (1986) Recycling of organic wastes for sustainable agricultural. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture 3: 115–130Google Scholar
  51. Parton WJ, Anderson DW, Cole CV & Stewart JWB (1983) Simulation of soil organic matter formulation and mineralization in semi-arid agro-ecosystems. In: Lawrence PR, Todd RI, Asmussen LE & Leonard RA (eds) Nutrient Cycling in Agricultural Ecosystems, pp 533–550, Special Publication 23. University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station, AthensGoogle Scholar
  52. Paustian K, Parton WJ & Persson J (1992) Modelling soil organic matter in organic-amended and nitrogen fertilized long-term plots. Soil Sci Soc Amer J 56: 476–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pieri C (1992) Fertility of Soils. A Future for Farming in the West African Savannah. Berlin: Springer, 348 ppGoogle Scholar
  54. Place F, Mwanze S & Kwesiga F (1994) A cost benefit analysis of improved fallows in Eastern Province of Zambia. International Centre for Research in Agro-forestry. Typescript, ICRAF, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  55. Poulain JF (1980) Crop residues in traditional cropping systems of West Africa. Effects on the mineral balance and level of organic matter in soils and proposals for their better management. In: Organic Recycling in Africa. FAO Soils Bulletin 43, pp 38–71Google Scholar
  56. Probert ME, Okalebo JR, Simpson JR & Jones RK (1992) The role of bome manure for improving soil fertility. In: Probert ME E (ed) Sustainable Dryland Cropping, ACIAR Proceedings No. 41. Canberra, Australia, pp 63-70 ppGoogle Scholar
  57. Qureshi JN (1987) The cumulative effects of N-P fertilizers, manure and crop residues on maize grain yields, leaf nutrient contents and some soil chemical properties at Kabete. In: National Maize Agronomy Workshop, Nairobi, February 17-191987 KARI, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  58. Ratunga V, Stevine KG, Karanja NK, Gachene CKK & Nzabonihankuye G (1998) Continuous fertilization on non-humiferous and oxisol in Rwanda ‘Plateau Central’ Soil chemical changes and plant production. Biotechnologic Agronomite Societe et Environment 2: 135–142Google Scholar
  59. Reijntes C, Haverkort B & Waters-Bayer A (1992) Farming for the future. An introduction to Low-External Input and Sustainable Agricultural. London: MacmillanGoogle Scholar
  60. Richards P (1985) Indigenous agricultural revolution. London: Hutchinson and Co.Google Scholar
  61. Ruthernberg H (1980) Farming systems in the Tropics. 3rd Edition. Oxford: Claredon PressGoogle Scholar
  62. Sanchez PA (1994) Alternatives to slash and burn: A Pragramatic Approach for Mitigating Tropical Deforestation. In: Anderson JR (ed) Agriculture Technology: Policy Issues for the International Community. CAB InternationalGoogle Scholar
  63. Schlesinger WH (1999) Carbon Sequestration in Soils. Science Vol. 284, p 2095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Smaling EMA, Nandwa SM & Janssen BJ (1997) Soil Fertility in Africa is at stake. In: Buresh RJ, Sanchez PA & Calhoun F (eds) Replenishing Soil Fertility in Africa, pp 47–61. SSSA Special Publication Number 71Google Scholar
  65. Smaling EMA & Braun AR (1996) Soil fertility research in Sub-Saharan Africa: New dimensions, new challenges. Comm Soil Sci Plant Analysis 27: 365–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Smaling EMA, Fresco LO & de Jager A (1996) Classifying and monitoring soil nutrient stocks and flows in African agriculture. Ambio 25: 492–496.Google Scholar
  67. Stevenson FJ & Elliott ET (1989) Methodologies for assessing the quantity and quality of soil organic matter in tropical ecosystems, pp 173–199. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii PressGoogle Scholar
  68. Swift MJ, Seward PD, Frost PGH, Qureshi JN & Muchena FN (1994) Long-term experiments in Africa: developing a database for sustainable land use under global change. In Leigh RA & Johnson AE (eds) Long-term experiments in agricultural and ecological sciences, pp 229–251. Wallingford, UK: CAB InternationalGoogle Scholar
  69. Van den Bosch H, De Jager A & Vlaming J (1998a) Monitoring nutrient flows and economic performance in African farming systems (NUTMON). II. Tool development. In: Smaling EMA (ed) Nutrient flows and balances as indicators of productivity and sustainability in sub-Saharan African agro-ecosystems. Agric Ecosyst Environ 71(1-3): 49–62Google Scholar
  70. Van Noordwijk M, Cerri C, Woomer PL, Nugroho K & Bernoux M (1997) Soil carbon dynamics in the humid forest zone. Geoderma 79: 187–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Van Straaten P (1997) Geological Phosphate Resources in Central East Africa (unpublished report). ICRAF, Nairobi/Guelph (December, 1997)Google Scholar
  72. Walker B, Steffen W, Canadell J & Ingram J (1999) The Terrestrial Biosphere and Global Change; implications for natural and managed ecosystem, Chapters 1 and 9 reproduced with permission for GTCE Focus 3 Conference, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  73. Wapakala WW (1976) Changes in some chemical properties of red clay soil. Results of a long term fertilizer and rotational trial in central Kenya. E Af Agric Fro J 42: 201–218Google Scholar
  74. Warren DM (1991) The role of indigenous knowledge in facilitating a participatory approach to agricultural extension. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Agricultural Knowledge Systems and the Role of Extension, pp 161–177, May 21-24, 1991, Bad Boll (Germany)Google Scholar
  75. Woomer PL, Martin A, Albrecht A, Resck DVS & Scharpenseel HW (1994) The importance and management of soil organic matter in the tropics. In: Woomer PL & Swift MJ (eds) The Biological Management of Tropical Soil Fertility, pp 47–80 Chichester, UK: Wiley-SayceGoogle Scholar
  76. Woomer PL & Muchena FN (1996) Overcoming soil constraints in crop production in tropical Africa. African Crop Sci J 4(4): 503–518Google Scholar
  77. Woomer PL, Palm CA, Qureshi JN & Kotto-Same J (1998) Carbon sequestration and organic resource management in African smallholder agriculture. In: Management of carbon sequestration in soil, Lal R, Kimble JM, Follet RF, Stewart BA, pp 153–171. Boca Raton, USA: CRC PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen M. Nandwa
    • 1
  1. 1.National Agricultural Research LaboratoriesKenya Agricultural Research InstituteNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations