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Vandamme E.,Catholic University of Leuven | Renkens M.,Catholic University of Leuven | Pypers P.,Catholic University of Leuven | Pypers P.,Tropical Soil Biology And Fertility Institute of CIAT | And 3 more authors.
Plant and Soil

Background and aims: Incorporating soybean (Glycine max) genotypes with a high nitrogen fixation potential into cropping systems can sustainably improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Western Kenya. Nitrogen fixation is, however, often constrained by low phosphorus (P) availability. The selection of soybean genotypes for increased P efficiency could help to overcome this problem. This study investigated the contribution of different root traits to variation in P efficiency among soybean genotypes. Methods: Eight genotypes were grown in a Ferralsol amended with suboptimal (low P) and optimal (high P) amounts of soluble P. Root hair growth was visualized by growing plants in a novel agar system where P intensity was buffered by Al2O3 nanoparticles. Results: In the pot trial, P uptake was unaffected among the genotypes at high P but differed about 2-fold at low P. The genotypes differed in P uptake efficiency but not in P utilization efficiency. Regression analysis and mechanistic modeling indicated that P uptake efficiencies were to a large extent related to root hair development (length and density) and, to a lower extent, to colonization by mycorrhizal fungi. Conclusion: Breeding for improved root hair development is a promising way to increase P uptake efficiency in soybean. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Source

Isaac M.E.,Montpellier SupAgro | Isaac M.E.,University of Toronto | Harmand J.-M.,Montpellier SupAgro | Lesueur D.,Montpellier SupAgro | And 2 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management

Acacia senegal, an important leguminous tree in arid and semi-arid environments, has shown promise as a multipurpose species, including gum production and soil fertility improvement, linked with N2-fixation capabilities. Of particular interest are ontogenetic and edaphic effects on A. senegal performance in natural populations. Our research objectives were to investigate the effect of tree age and site phosphorus conditions on (1) tree N2-fixation and (2) soil N and C dynamics in natural stands of A. senegal var. senegal, Baringo District, in the Rift Valley, Kenya. Sites consisted of A. senegal saplings (9 months) and mature A. senegal trees (7 years) along an edaphic gradient of soil P availability. A single-tree neighborhood approach was employed using a two by two factorial design: site conditions [high and low soil P contents] and tree age class [juvenile and mature]. Soil (N and C pools and fluxes) and plant metrics were quantified. A soil transfer experiment was also employed to confirm age and site effects on soil N mineralization. On the high soil P site, A. senegal had significantly lower foliar (15N levels than neighboring non-leguminous species (Balanites aegyptiaca), while foliar δ15N values in A. senegal on the low P site exhibited no significant difference with our reference plant, B. aegyptiaca. Across P sites, B. aegyptiaca had similar foliar δ15N values. These results indicate that the rate of N2-fixation of A. senegal trees, as determined with foliar 15N natural abundance methodology, increased with increasing soil P availability in these natural populations. However, N2-fixation rates declined with age. Although soil texture and soil CO2 efflux did not differ between sites or across ages, soils under mature A. senegal at the high P site exhibited significantly greater total N content and total C content in comparison to soils at the low P site and under juvenile plants. Furthermore, under mature A. senegal trees, soil N mineralization rates were significantly greater as compared to under saplings. Soil transplants confirmed that soil microbial activity may be stimulated under mature trees as N mineralization rates were 2-3 fold greater compared to under A. senegal saplings. Our findings suggest that tree age and soil P availability are important factors in the nitrogen budget of natural populations of A. senegal, determining N2-fixation rates, and potentially influencing soil total N and C pools and soil mineral N. This study provides information regarding the adaptation of A. senegal under differing edaphic conditions thus increasing accuracy of management support for A. senegal populations as productive agroforests. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. Source

Six L.,Catholic University of Leuven | Pypers P.,Tropical Soil Biology And Fertility Institute of CIAT | Degryse F.,University of Adelaide | Smolders E.,Catholic University of Leuven | Merckx R.,Catholic University of Leuven
Plant and Soil

Background and aims: A soil test that samples nutrients only from fractions that are accessible to plants will predict availability and uptake more robustly than empirical tests. This can be tested by comparison of the isotope ratios (specific activity, SA) of the nutrient between plant and the soil extract. This study was set up to assess this requirement for the diffusive gradients in thin films technique (DGT), recently proposed as a soil P test, in comparison with conventional soil P tests viz. Olsen, Colwell, Bray-1, Mehlich-3, ammonium oxalate, anion exchange membranes (AEM) and 0. 01 M CaCl 2 solution. Methods: Maize (Zea mays L.) was grown in two P-deficient soils from western Kenya with contrasting P sorption characteristics, amended with a low and a high P rate and labelled with 33P. Results: The SA in the plant shoot corresponded with that of the extracts of the different soil tests, except for CaCl 2 and ammonium oxalate extracts, at the low P rate in the soil with low P sorption capacity, Teso soil. For the high P rate on this soil, differences in SA between maize shoot and soil test were small for all established soil tests, but significant for the Colwell, Bray-1, Mehlich-3 and AEM tests. The SA in the soil extracts was significantly smaller than that in the maize shoot for Sega the strongly P-sorbing soil at both P rates for all conventional tests, including AEM. This indicates that these tests extracted P from a pool that is not accessible to the plant. For the DGT test, however, there was no difference in SA between the maize shoot and the soil test, for any of the treatments. Conclusions: Most conventional soil tests can extract a fraction of P which is not available to maize. The DGT technique, however, only samples P from the plant-accessible pool. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

Cobo J.G.,University of Hohenheim | Cobo J.G.,Tropical Soil Biology And Fertility Institute of CIAT | Dercon G.,University of Hohenheim | Cadisch G.,University of Hohenheim
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment

Nutrient balances are useful tools as indicators of potential land degradation and for optimizing nutrient use, and are thus highly relevant in the African context. A comprehensive literature review on nutrient balances in Africa was carried out to illustrate the main approaches, challenges, and progress, with emphasis on issues of scale. The review showed nutrient balances being widely used across the continent. The collected dataset from 57 peer-reviewed studies indicated, however, that most of the balances were calculated at plot and farm scale, and generated in East Africa. Data confirmed the expected trend of negative balances in the continent for nitrogen and potassium, where >75% of selected studies had mean values below zero. For phosphorus only 56% of studies showed negative mean balances. Several cases with positive nutrient balances indicated that soil nutrient mining cannot be generalized across the continent. Land use systems of wealthier farmers mostly presented higher nitrogen and phosphorus balances than systems of poorer farmers (p < 0.001). Plots located close to homesteads also usually presented higher balances than plots located relatively farther away (p < 0.05). Partial nutrient balances were significantly higher (p < 0.001) than full balances calculated for the same systems, but the later carried more uncertainties. The change in magnitude of nutrient balances from plot to continental level did not show any noticeable trend, which challenges prevailing assumptions that an increasing trend exists. However, methodological differences made a proper inter-scale comparison of results difficult. Actually, the review illustrated the high diversity of methods used to calculate nutrient balances and highlighted the main pit-falls, especially when nutrient flows and balances were scaled-up. Major generic problems were the arbitrary inclusion/exclusion of flows from the calculations, short evaluation periods, and difficulties on setting of spatial-temporal boundaries, inclusion of lateral flows, and linking the balances to soil nutrient stocks. The need for properly describing the methods used and reporting the estimates (i.e. appropriate units and measure of variability and error) were also highlighted. Main challenges during scaling-up were related to the type of aggregation and internalization of nutrient flows, as well as issues of non-linearity, and spatial variability, resolution and extent, which have not been properly addressed yet. In fact, gathered information showed that despite some few initiatives, scaling-up methods are still incipient. Lastly, promising technologies and recommendations to deal with these challenges were presented to assist in future research on nutrient balances at different spatial scales in Africa and worldwide. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Source

Gentile R.M.,University of California at Davis | Vanlauwe B.,Tropical Soil Biology And Fertility Institute of CIAT | Vanlauwe B.,International Institute Of Tropical Agriculture | Six J.,University of California at Davis | Six J.,ETH Zurich
Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Soil organic matter is important to improve and sustain soil fertility in tropical agroecosystems. The combined use of organic residue and fertilizer inputs is advocated for its positive effects on short-term nutrient supply, but the effect of the integrated use on long-term stabilization of soil organic C and N is still unclear. We conducted a 1.5-y soil incubation experiment with maize (Zea mays) residue and urea fertilizer to examine the stabilization of C and N in four Sub-Saharan African soils differing in texture (sand, sandy loam, clay loam, and clay). The inputs were enriched with 13C and 15N in a mirror-labelling design to trace the fate of residue-C and N, and fertilizer-N in combination. We hypothesized that combining inputs would enhance the stabilization of C and N relative to either input alone across a range of soil textures. The treatments were destructively sampled after 0.25, 0.5, and 1.5y to assess input-derived C and N stabilization in soil macro- and microaggregate fractions. The combination treatment had a significant but small (2% of residue-applied C) increase in residue-C stabilized in the total soil after0.25y, but this increase did not persist after 0.5 and 1.5y. While combining residue and fertilizer decreased the amount of residue-N stabilized within 53- to 2000-μm sized soil aggregates (e.g., 7% less at1.5y), it increased the stabilization of fertilizer-N at all sampling times (e.g., 20% more at 1.5y). The increased amount of fertilizer-N stabilized was significantly greater than the amount of residue-N lost in the combined input treatments in the three finer textured soils at 1.5y, indicating an interactive increase in the stabilization of new N. Our results indicate that combining residue with fertilizer inputs can increase the short-term stabilization of N, which has the potential to improve soil fertility. However, benefits to N stabilization from combining organic residues and fertilizer seem to be less in coarser-textured soils. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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