Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 3, July-September 2008
Page(s) 429 - 437
Published online 03 June 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 429-437
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008015

Plant age and rock phosphate effects on the organic resource quality of herbaceous legume residues and their N and P release dynamics

B. Vanlauwe1, A. Idrissa2, J. Diels3, N. Sanginga1 and R. Merckx4

1  Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, PO Box 30677, Nairobi, Kenya
2  Ministère des Enseignements Secondaire Supérieure de la Recherche et de la Technology, BP 237, Niamey, Niger Republic
3  International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, PMB 5320, Ibadan, Nigeria
4  Department of Land Management, Faculty of Applied Bioscience and Engineering, Kasteelpark Arenberg 20, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium

Accepted 11 March 2008 ; published online 3 June 2008

Abstract - Many tropical agro-ecosystems rely on organic resources for nutrient provision. Various factors affect the nutrient release dynamics of organic resources, including application of external nutrients during their growth and their age or physiological stage at the time of harvest. Understanding relationships between organic resource management factors and the resulting nutrient release dynamics is important for optimizing nutrient recovery by crops and minimizing nutrient losses to the environment. Here, Mucuna pruriens and Lablab purpureus legumes were grown on a `slope' and `plateau' field, treated or not with rock phosphate, and sampled from 12 to 30 weeks after planting. These plant residues were then incubated in a sandy soil under laboratory conditions and mineral N and Olsen-extractable P dynamics were measured for 28 days. Our results showed that plant age had an impact on N, P and polyphenol contents. Application of rock phosphate only altered the P content of the legumes on the `plateau' field, which had a lower soil-available P content. We also observed that mineral N dynamics of the organic resources varied between -62% of the added N released after 28 days, indicating net immobilization, and +23%, indicating net mineralization, with most organic resources showing an initial N immobilization phase. N release was negatively related to the lignin-to-N and (lignin+polyphenol)-to-N ratios of the organic resources. Lastly, we observed that the net release of Olsen P relative to the control soil varied between 0.4 and 4.9 mg kg-1 and that net P release was positively related to the P content of the organic resources. In summary, legume age was the parameter that most strongly influenced the quality of the legume residues, and consequently its N and P release dynamics, with potentially significant consequences for N and P uptake recovery and losses and, ultimately, cropping system sustainability.

Key words: Lablab purpureus / Mucuna pruriens / N mineralization / Olsen P release / organic resource quality / Togo rock phosphate

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008