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Effect of improved fallow on crop productivity, soil fertility and climate-forcing gas emissions in semi-arid conditions

Hall, N.M., Kaya, B., Dick, J., Skiba, U., Niang, A., Tabo, R.
Biology and fertility of soils 2006 v.42 no.3 pp. 224-230
fallow, soil fertility, soil nutrients, grain yield, Gliricidia sepium, Acacia, straw, biomass, continuous cropping, climatic factors, gas emissions, rainfall simulation, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, microbial activity, soil respiration, nitrogen fixation, Mali
The impacts of fallow on soil fertility, crop production and climate-forcing gas emissions were determined in two contrasting legumes, Gliricidia sepium and Acacia colei, in comparison with traditional unamended fallow and continuous cultivation systems. After 2 years, the amount of foliar material produced did not differ between the two improved fallow species; however, grain yield was significantly elevated by 55% in the first and second cropping season after G. sepium compared with traditional fallow. By contrast, relative to the unamended fallow, a drop in grain yield was observed in the first cropping season after A. colei, followed by no improvement in the second. G. sepium had higher foliar N, K and Mg, while A. colei had lower foliar N but higher lignin and polyphenols. In the third year after fallow improvement, a simulated rainfall experiment was performed on soils to compare efflux of N₂O and CO₂. Improved fallow effects on soil nutrient composition and microbial activity were demonstrated through elevated N₂O and CO₂ efflux from soils in G. sepium fallows compared with other treatments. N₂O emissions were around six times higher from this nitrogen-fixing soil treatment, evolving 69.9 ngN₂O-N g-¹soil h-¹ after a simulated rainfall event, compared with only 8.5 and 4.8 ngN₂O-N g-¹soil h-¹ from soil under traditional fallow and continuous cultivation, respectively. The findings indicate that selection of improved fallows for short-term fertility enhancement has implications for regional N₂O emissions for dry land regions.