Nutrient release dynamics from decomposing organic materials and their mulching-effect on pearl millet yields in a low-input Sahelian cropping system

Organic material inputs for increased crop yields are insufficient in the Sahelian West Africa. There is a need for diversifying organic amendment sources for improved nutrient supply in low-input cropping system. The 2-year study aimed to (1) explore the rates of mass losses and nutrient release dynamics from Acacia tumida prunings (AT) and millet straw (MS) under field conditions, (2) assess termite’s contribution to the decomposition of AT and MS, and (3) ascertain the mulching-effect of these organic materials on pearl millet yields. The study was conducted in Niger using field experiment and litterbag methodology and the data modelled using single exponential decay equations. Under field con ditions, mulching with AT and MS increased millet grain yield by 35 and 33%, respectively compared to control. The harvest index (HI) in 2014 increased by 21% compared to that obtained in 2013 with the highest HI being recorded for the AT mulched treatment. The results from litterbag experiment indicated a greater dry mass losses from MS decom position in 2013 whereas relatively higher mass losses were recorded from AT decomposition in 2014. The differences in mass losses among the organic materials could be related to the interaction of soil moisture dynamics and termites’ population which are posi tively correlated with mass losses. The contribution of termites to the decomposition was estimated to be 36% for MS and 8% for AT. In 2013, at 126 days after litterbags placement, the amounts of N, P, and K released from MS were 16, 1, and 25 kg ha-1 of initial nutrient applied, respectively compared with the 22, 1, and 23 kg ha-1 recorded from AT treatment. During the same period in 2014, the total amounts of N, P and K released from MS were 15, 0.6, and 29 kg ha-1 , respectively compared to the 32 kg ha-1 of N, 1 kg ha-1 of P, and 29 kg ha-1 of K released from the AT treatment. The intrinsic organic material quality could explain markedly the variation in nutrient released among the organic material. These results indicate that Acacia tumida prunings have a potential to provide nutrient through mineralization for enhanced crop yield in the Sahel
This article is Published by Springer, 2017 and is also available at 10.1007/s10705-018-9928-4
Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst, 2018