Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 121–129

Nitrogen-fixation dynamics in a cut-and-carry silvopastoral system in the subhumid conditions of Guadeloupe, French Antilles



This paper summarizes several studies on N recycling in a tropical silvopastoral system for assessing the ability of the system to increase soil fertility and insure sustainability. We analyzed the N2 fixation pattern of the woody legume component (Gliricidia sepium), estimated the recycling rate of the fixed N in the soil, and measured N outputs in tree pruning and cut grass (Dichanthium aristatum). With this information, we estimated the N balance of the silvopastoral system at the plot scale. The studies were conducted in an 11-year-old silvopastoral plot established by planting G. sepium cuttings at 0.3 m × 2 m spacing in natural grassland. The plot was managed as a cut-and-carry system where all the tree pruning residues (every 2-4 months) and cut grass (every 40-50 days) were removed and animals were excluded. No N fertilizer was applied. Dinitrogen fixation, as estimated by the 15N natural abundance method, ranged from 60-90% of the total N in aboveground tree biomass depending on season. On average, 76% of the N exports from the plot in tree pruning (194 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) originated from N2 fixation. Grass production averaged 13 Mg ha–1 yr–1 and N export in cut grass was 195 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1. The total N fixed by G. sepium, as estimated from the tree and grass N exports and the increase in soil N content, was about 555 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1. Carbon sequestration averaged 1.9 Mg [C] ha–1 yr–1 and soil organic N in the 0-0.2 m layer increased at a rate of 166 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1, corresponding to 30% of N2 fixation by the tree. Nitrogen released in nodule turnover (10 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) and litter decomposition (40 kg [N] ha–1 yr–1) contributed slightly to this increase, and most of the recycled N came from the turnover or the activity of other below-ground tree biomass than nodules.

Carbon sequestration Gliricidia sepium Nitrogen balance 15N natural abundance Pruning tree roots 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Archimède H., Dulormne M., Tournebize R., Saminadin G., Periacarpin F. and Xand' A.2001. The effects of Gliricidia sepium supplementation on intake and digestion of Digitaria decumbens hay by black belly sheep.J. Agric. Sci.137: 105–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnebrandt K., Ek H., Finlay R.D. and Söderström B.1993. Nitrogen translocation between Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. seedlings inoculated with Frankia sp. and Pinus contorta Doug. ex Loud seedlings connected by a common ectomycorrhizal mycelium.New Phytol.130: 231–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brophy L.S., Heichel G.H. and Russelle M.P.1987. Nitrogen transfer from forage legumes to grass in a systematic planting design.Crop. Sci.27: 753–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Catchpoole D.W. and Blair G.J.1990. Forage tree legumes III. Release of nitrogen from leaf, faeces and urine derived from leucaena and gliricidia leaf.Aust. J. Agric. Res.41: 539–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Domenach A.M., Kurdali F. and Bardin R.1989. Estimation of symbiotic dinitrogen fixation in alder forest by the method based on natural 15N abundance.Plant Soil.118: 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dulormne M.2001. Analyse de l'effet ombrage dans un système agroforestier l'gumineuse arbustive-herbe. Ph. D. thesis, University Paris Sud, France, 120 pp.Google Scholar
  7. García H., Nygren P. and Desfontaines L.2001. Dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates and biomass yield in a fodder legume tree under different harvest intensities.Tree Physiol.21: 523–531.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Kanninen M.2001. Secuestro de carbono en bosques: el papel de los bosques en el ciclo global de carbono. In: II Conferencia Electrónica FAO-CIPAV sobre Agroforestería para la Producción Animal en Latinoam'rica. Scholar
  9. Kass D.C.L., Sylvester-Bradley R. and Nygren P.1997. The role of nitrogen fixation and nutrient supply in some agroforestry systems of the Americas.Soil. Biol. Biochem.29: 775–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ladha J.K., Peoples M.B., Garrity D.P., Capuno V.T. and Dart P.J.1993. Estimating dinitrogen fixation of hedgerow vegetation using the nitrogen-15 natural abundance method.Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.57: 732–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Liyanage M. de S., Danso S.K.A. and Jayasundara H.P.S.1994. Biological nitrogen fixation in four Gliricidia sepium genotypes.Plant Soil.161: 267–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nygren P. and Cruz P.1998. Biomass allocation and nodulation of Gliricidia sepium under two cut-and-carry forage production regimes.Agrofor. Syst.41: 277–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nygren P., Cruz P., Domenach A.M., Vaillant V. and Sierra J.2000a. Influence of forage harvesting regimes on dynamics of biological dinitrogen fixation of a tropical woody legume.Tree Physiol.20: 41–48.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Nygren P., Lorenzo A. and Cruz P.2000b. Decomposition of woody legume nodules in two tree/grass associations under contrasting environmental conditions.Agrofor. Syst.48: 229–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Peoples M.B., Palmer B., Lilley D.M., Duc L.M. and Herridge D.F.1996. Application of 15N and xylem ureide methods for assessing N2 fixation of three shrub legumes periodically pruned for forage.Plant Soil.182: 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Postgate J.1987. Nitrogen fixation, 2nd ed.Edward Arnold, London, UK, 73 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Rao A.V. and Giller K.E.1993. Nitrogen fixation and its transfer from Leucaena to grass using 15N. For.Ecol. Manage.61: 221–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ruhigwa B.A., Gichuru M.P., Mambani B. and Tariah N.M.1992. Root distribution of Acioa barteri, Alchornea cordifolia, Cassia siamea and Gmelina arborea in an acid Ultisol.Agrofor. Syst.19: 67–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Russelle M.P., Allan D.L. and Gourly C.J.P.1994. Direct assessment of symbiotically fixed nitrogen in the rhizosphere of alfalfa.Plant Soil159: 223–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schroth G and Zech W.1995. Root length dynamics in agroforestry with Gliricidia sepium as compared to sole cropping in the semi-deciduous rainforest zone of West Africa.Plant Soil.170: 297–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shearer G and Kohl D.H.1986. N2 fixation in field settings: estimations based on natural 15N abundance.Aust. J. Plant Physiol.13: 699–756.Google Scholar
  22. Sierra J., Dulormne M. and Desfontaines L.2002. Soil nitrogen as affected by Gliricidia sepium in a silvopastoral system in Guadeloupe, French Antilles.Agrofor. Syst.54: 87–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Simard S.W., Perry D.A., Jones M.D., Myrold D.D., Durall D.M. and Molina R.1997. Net transfer of carbon between ectomycorrhizal tree species in the field.Nature388: 579–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Snoeck D., Zapata F. and Domenach A.M.2000. Isotopic evidence of the transfer of nitrogen fixed by legumes to coffee trees.Biotechnol. Agron. Soc. Environ.4: 95–100.Google Scholar
  25. Wittingham J. and Read D.J.1982. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza in natural vegetation systems III. Nutrient transfer between plants with mycorrhizal connections.New Phytol.90: 277–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unité Agropédoclimatique de la Zone Caraïbe, Domaine DuclosINRAPetit-Bourg, GuadeloupeFrance
  2. 2.Center for AgroforestryUniversity of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Station d'Agronomie de ToulouseINRACastanet-TolosanFrance

Personalised recommendations