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Nitrogen cycling in leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) alley cropping in semi-arid tropics: I. Mineralization of nitrogen from leucaena residues

Z.H. XU, P.G. SAFFIGNA, R.J.K. MYERS and A.L. CHAPMAN
Plant and Soil
Vol. 148, No. 1 (January (I) 1993), pp. 63-72
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42938771
Page Count: 10
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Nitrogen cycling in leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) alley cropping in semi-arid tropics: I. Mineralization of nitrogen from leucaena residues
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Abstract

The success of alley cropping depends to a large extent on the efficiency of transfer of nitrogen (N) from the legume hedgerow plants to the non-legume crop. Here the idea is examined that leucaena prunings (residues) can supply enough N to maize plants to significantly reduce the degree of N deficiency. Two experiments on decomposition of leucaena leaf, stem, and petiole and mineralization of N from leucaena residues were conducted in field microplots which received application of either ¹⁵N-labelled leucaena materials or ammonium sulphate fertilizer. The microplots were installed in alleys formed by leucaena hedgerows spaced 4.5 metres apart and cropped with maize. The decomposition of leucaena leaves, stems and petioles was estimated by several methods. The decomposition ranged from 50-58% with leaves, 25-67% with stems and 38-51% with petioles 20 days after addition. More than 55% of the N was released in 52 days during decomposition of leucaena residues. By 20 days after application of ¹⁵N-labelled leucaena 3.3-9.4% of the added ¹⁵N was found in the maize plants, 32.7-49.0% was in the leucaena residues, 36.0-48.0% in the soil and 0.3-21.9% lost (deficit). By 52 days 4.8% of the ¹⁵N applied in leucaena prunings was taken up by maize, 45.1% was detected in the residues, 24.9% in the soil and 25.2% lost. However, when N fertilizer was applied, 50.2% of the fertilizer N was recovered by maize, 35.5% was retained in the soil and 14.3% apparently lost. There was a marked increase in maize plant dry matter and N uptake in the microplots with addition of leucaena prunings compared with those in the microplots without leucaena added. Most of the ¹⁵N remaining in the soil profile, derived from leucaena residues, was detected in the top 25 cm soil with less than 2% found below 25 cm.

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