Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment

Vol 11, Issue 2,2013
Online ISSN: 1459-0263
Print ISSN: 1459-0255

Growth and nutrient uptake by maize (Zea mays L.) in a soil amended with leaf litter from sub-tropical fruit trees in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa 


N. R. Murovhi 1*, S. A. Materechera 2

Recieved Date: 2013-02-04, Accepted Date: 2013-04-22


Improved food crop production is the central strategy for achieving household food security in many countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa. Leaf litter biomass, especially from leguminous plants is commonly used in smallholder farmers’ agroforestry systems to improve and maintain soil fertility. In this study leaf litter from three fruit trees commonly found in the sub-tropical environment of South Africa was used to quantify the uptake of nutrients by maize grown in soil amended with the litter. Leaf litter from trees of avocado (Persea americana L.), mango (Mangifera indica L.) and litchi (Litchi chinensis L.) was applied at rates equivalent to 0, 1.6 and 3.3 t ha-1 and incubated for  periods of 0, 6 and 12 months before planting. Dry matter yields of maize were significantly (p<0.01) higher in soil amended with 3.3 t ha-1 of P. americana leaf litter while the lowest yields were obtained in soils amended with M. indica leaf litter. The uptake of P was higher in shoots than roots of maize while that of N and S showed a reverse trend. Increasing the leaf litter application rate and incubation period resulted in higher concentration and uptake of nutrients by maize. Higher uptake of N, P and Zn was observed in maize plants grown in soil incubated for 12 months prior to planting. The results emphasize the importance of timing the application of litter in order to synchronise the release of nutrients with crop uptake and growth. Due to the relatively poor quality, the litter needs to be incubated for a longer period in order to allow for mineralization to take place. It was concluded that leaf litter from P. americana had a superior effect on the dry matter and plant height of maize plants due to higher quality compared to M. indica and L. chinensis. Appropriate management strategies for handling such litter for soil fertility management are suggested. 


Food security, leaf litter quality, mineralization, plant nutrient uptake, sub-tropical climate, fruit trees

Journal: Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment
Year: 2013
Volume: 11
Issue: 2
Category: Agriculture
Pages: 427-432

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