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Managing soil fertility diversity to enhance resource use efficiencies in smallholder farming systems: A case from Murewa District, Zimbabwe

Zingore S., Tittonell P., Corbeels M., Van Wijk M.T., Giller K.E.. 2011. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 90 (1) : p. 87-103.

Smallholder farms in sub-Saharan African exhibit substantial heterogeneity in soil fertility, and nutrient resource allocation strategies that address this variability are required to increase nutrient use efficiencies. We applied the Field-scale resource Interactions, use Efficiencies and Long-term soil fertility Development (FIELD) model to explore consequences of various manure and fertilizer application strategies on crop productivity and soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics on farms varying in resource endowment in a case study village in Murewa District, Zimbabwe. FIELD simulated a rapid decline in SOC and maize yields when native woodlands were cleared for maize cultivation without fertilizer inputs coupled with removal of crop residues. Applications of 10 t manure ha-1 year-1 for 10 years were required to restore maize productivity to the yields attainable under native woodland. Long-term application of manure at 5 and 3 t ha-1 resulted in SOC contents comparable to zones of high and medium soil fertility observed on farms of wealthy cattle owners. Targeting manure application to restore SOC to 50-60% of contents under native woodlands was sufficient to increase productivity to 90% of attainable yields. Short-term increases in crop productivity achieved by reallocating manure to less fertile fields were short-lived on sandy soils. Preventing degradation of the soils under intensive cultivation is difficult, particularly in low input farming systems, and attention should be paid to judicious use of the limited nutrient resources to maintain a degree of soil fertility that supports good crop response to fertilizer application. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : matière organique du sol; agroécosystème; petite exploitation agricole; zea mays; fertilité du sol; zimbabwe

Thématique : Fertilité du sol; Méthodes mathématiques et statistiques; Fertilisation

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