Dynamics of nitrogen in a shaded cacao plantation | SpringerLink

Studies of nitrogen mineralization and leaching were conducted in the cacao-growing region in the south of Bahia, Brazil, on plots fertilized with N, P and K and on plots without fertilizer in plantations 30-40 yrs old on CEPEC soil (Tropudalf) over a period of one year. Mini-lysimeters were installed at depths of 10, 20 and 40 cm and the leachate was collected weekly or after heavy rain. Net mineralization was measured in soil samples taken at depths of 0-5 and 5-15 cm and incubated for 30 days in plastic bags placed at the site of collection.

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The degree of leaching was correlated with the amount of rainfall and, although it is difficult to quantify the losses per unit area, we estimate that these losses are minor. Ammonification and nitrification were both high during most of the year; nitrification was very rapid and was especially intensive in the fertilized area. Analyzes of Erythrina and cacao litter show that these components make a considerable contribution to the nitrogen recycled in the cacao plantation. High concentrations of total nitrogen were detected in the soil samples taken close to shade trees and, on average, the soil of shaded areas had more than 480 mg N kg soil than soil of non-shaded areas. Removal of nitrogen in harvest can also be considerable. It is advisable to take nitrogen-cycle data into account when compiling tables of fertilizer recommendations.

  • Adam Floyd