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Effect of land management on soil microbial N supply to crop N uptake in a dry tropical cropland in Tanzania
- Sugihara, Soh, Funakawa, Shinya, Kilasara, Method, Kosaki, Takashi
- Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2012 v.146 no.1 pp. 209-219
- carbon nitrogen ratio, cropland, fertilizer application, land management, leaching, microbial biomass, planting, soil, soil microorganisms, Tanzania
- In Sub-Saharan Africa, conservation of available soil N during early crop growth, when N loss by leaching generally occurs, is important to improve crop productivity. In a dry tropical cropland in Tanzania, we assessed the potential role of soil microbes as a temporal N sink–source to conserve the available soil N until later crop growth, which generally requires substantial crop N uptake. We evaluated the effect of land management [i.e., no input, plant residue application before planting (P plot) with or without fertilizer application, fertilizer application alone, and non-cultivated plots] on the relationship between soil N pool [microbial biomass N (MBN) and inorganic N] and crop N uptake throughout the ∼120-d crop growth period in two consecutive years. In the P plot, MBN clearly increased (∼14.6–29.6kgNha⁻¹) early in the crop growth period in both years because of immobilization of potentially leachable N, and it conserved a larger soil N pool (∼10.5–21.2kgNha⁻¹) than in the control plot. Especially in one year in which N leaching was critical, increased MBN maintained a larger soil N pool in the P plot throughout the experimental period, and a delay of increased MB C:N ratio and a substantial decrease in MBN was observed, indicating better soil microbial N supply for crop N uptake during later crop growth. Therefore, plant residue application before planting should enhance the role of soil microbes as a temporal N sink–source, leading to the conservation of potentially leachable N until later phase of crop growth, especially in years in which N leaching is relatively severe. Although further studies are necessary, our results suggest that plant residue application before planting is a promising option to achieve better N synchronization.