Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection: 2nd International Nitrogen Conference 2001View this Special Issue
Research Article | Open Access
Gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) Green Manures as a Potential Source of N for Maize Production in the Tropics
Use of cheap, N-rich, and environmentally benign legume green manures to correct N deficiency in infertile soils is a very attractive option in the humid tropics. Understanding the influence of management and climate on their effectiveness, and quantifying their contribution to crop productivity, is therefore crucial for technology adoption and adaptation. Mineral N buildup and the contribution to N uptake in maize were studied in an Ultisol amended with fresh Gliricidia leaves. Net mineral N accumulation was compared in mulched and incorporated treatments in a field incubation study. The 15N isotope dilution technique was used to quantify N supplied to maize by Gliricidia leaves in an alley cropping. Mineral N accumulation was slow, but was much greater after incorporation than after mulching. Also, N buildup was always higher in the topsoil (0 to 10 cm) than in the subsoil (10 to 20 cm). More NO3-N was leached than NH4-N, and the effect was greater in the incorporated treatment. Surface-applied Gliricidia leaves significantly increased N uptake by maize, and supplied >30% of the total N in the stover and >20% of that in the corn grain, even in the presence of hedgerows. Thus Gliricidia leaf mulch has immense potential to improve productivity in tropical soils.