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Nitrogen and phosphorus economy of a legume tree-cereal intercropping system under controlled conditions

Isaac M.E., Hinsinger P., Harmand J.M.. 2012. Science of the Total Environment, 434 : p. 71-78.

Considerable amounts of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizers have been mis-used in agroecosystems, with profound alteration to the biogeochemical cycles of these two major nutrients. To reduce excess fertilizer use, plant-mediated nutrient supply through N2-fixation, transfer of fixed N and mobilization of soil P may be important processes for the nutrient economy of low-input tree-based intercropping systems. In this study, we quantified plant performance, P acquisition and belowground N transfer from the N2-fixing tree to the cereal crop under varying root contact intensity and P supplies. We cultivated Acacia senegal var senegal in pot-culture containing 90% sand and 10% vermiculite under 3 levels of exponentially supplied P. Acacia plants were then intercropped with durum wheat (Triticum turgidum durum) in the same pots with variable levels of adsorbed P or transplanted and intercropped with durum wheat in rhizoboxes excluding direct root contact on P-poor red Mediterranean soils. In pot-culture, wheat biomass and P content increased in relation to the P gradient. Strong isotopic evidence of belowground N transfer, based on the isotopic signature (?15N) of tree foliage and wheat shoots, was systematically found under high P in pot-culture, with an average N transfer value of 14.0% of wheat total N after 21 days of contact between the two species. In the rhizoboxes, we observed limitations on growth and P uptake of intercropped wheat due to competitive effects on soil resources and minimal evidence of belowground N transfer of N from acacia to wheat. In this intercrop, specifically in pot-culture, facilitation for N transfer from the legume tree to the crop showed to be effective especially when crop N uptake was increased (or stimulated) as occurred under high P conditions and when competition was low. Understanding these processes is important to the nutrient economy and appropriate management of legume-based agroforestry systems. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : interaction génique; agroforesterie; physiologie de la nutrition; culture intercalaire; fixation de l'azote; compétition biologique; phosphore; azote; rhizobium; triticum turgidum; acacia senegal; niger

Thématique : Physiologie végétale : nutrition; Systèmes et modes de culture; Production forestière

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