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Improving maize production through nitrogen supply from ten rarely-used organic resources in Ghana

Partey, ST and Thevathasan, NV and Zougmoré, RB and Preziosi, RF (2016) Improving maize production through nitrogen supply from ten rarely-used organic resources in Ghana. Agroforestry Systems. ISSN 0167-4366

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Abstract

© 2016 The Author(s)Where there is limited availability of conventional fertilizers, the use of organic materials is considered a viable alternative to increase the productive capacity of soils. Many potential plant residues remain underutilized due to limited research on their use as a nutrient source. In this study, the nitrogen supplying capabilities of ten rarely-used leaf biomass sources (Acacia auriculiformis, Baphia nitida, Albizia zygia, Azadirachta indica, Senna siamea, Senna spectabilis, Tithonia diversifolia, Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Zea mays) were tested based on their nutrient content, N mineralization patterns and effect on maize yield (in comparison with inorganic fertilizer). N mineralization was studied in the laboratory using an incubation experiment. Field trials were also established using a randomized complete block design. Plant residues were applied at 5 t dry matter ha−1 a week before planting maize while fertilizer was split-applied at 90 kg N ha−1 on designated plots. From the results on plant residue chemistry, most of the plant residues recorded relatively high N concentration (≥24.9 g kg−1) and low C/N ratio (≤20.1) although neither N content nor C/N ratio significantly (p > 0.05) affected their N mineralization patterns. Leaf biomass application of B. nitida, A. auriculiformis, A. zygia and maize stover resulted in an initial net N immobilization that lasted for 14 days. Application of all plant materials significantly increased the biological yield and N uptake of maize with G. sepium and T. diversifolia producing the greatest impact especially in the major rainy season. Relative to the control, total grain yield after four cropping seasons was comparable between inorganic fertilizer (9.2 t ha−1), G. sepium (8.8 t ha−1) and T. diversifolia (9.4 t ha−1) treatments. The results on maize biological yield were significantly correlated with the effects of the treatments on N uptake. The findings suggest that in locations where inorganic fertilizers are limited, leaf biomass from G. sepium and T. diversifolia could offer the most suitable option in comparison with the other species used in this study.

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