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Tropical soils degraded by slash-and-burn cultivation can be recultivated when amended with ashes and compost

Tropical soils degraded by slash-and-burn cultivation can be recultivated when amended with ashes and compost
Tropical soils degraded by slash-and-burn cultivation can be recultivated when amended with ashes and compost

In many tropical regions, slash-and-burn agriculture is considered as a driver of deforestation; the forest is converted into agricultural land by cutting and burning the trees. However, the fields are abandoned after few years because of yield decrease and weed invasion. Consequently, new surfaces are regularly cleared from the primary forest. We propose a reclamation strategy for abandoned fields allowing and sustaining re-cultivation. In the dry region of south-western Madagascar, we tested, according to a split-plot design, an alternative selective slash-and-burn cultivation technique coupled with compost amendment on 30-year-old abandoned fields. Corn plants (Zea mays L.) were grown on four different types of soil amendments: no amendment (control), compost, ashes (as in traditional slash-and-burn cultivation), and compost + ashes additions. Furthermore, two tree cover treatments were applied: 0% tree cover (as in traditional slash-and-burn cultivation) and 50% tree cover (selective slash-and-burn). Both corn growth and soil fertility parameters were monitored during the growing season 2015 up to final harvest. The amendment compost + ashes strongly increased corn yield, which was multiplied by 4-5 in comparison with ashes or compost alone, reaching 1.5 t/ha compared to 0.25 and 0.35 t/ha for ashes and compost, respectively. On control plots, yield was negligible as expected on these degraded soils. Structural equation modeling evidenced that compost and ashes were complementary fertilizing pathways promoting soil fertility through positive effects on soil moisture, pH, organic matter, and microbial activity. Concerning the tree cover treatment, yield was reduced on shaded plots (50% tree cover) compared to sunny plots (0% tree cover) for all soil amendments, except ashes. To conclude, our results provide empirical evidence on the potential of recultivating tropical degraded soils with compost and ashes. This would help mitigating deforestation of the primary forest by increasing lifespan of agricultural lands.

Crop yield, Deforestation, Microbial activity, Organic matter, Soil fertility, Structural equation model
2045-7758
Gay-des-Combes, Justine Marie
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Sanz Carrillo, Clara
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Robroek, Bjorn Jozef Maria
06dcb269-687c-41db-ab73-f61899617f92
Jassey, Vincent Eric Jules
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Mills, Robert Thomas Edmund
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Arif, Muhammad Saleem
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Falquet, Leia
1f979bd1-3201-467f-8076-9714df8bd95a
Frossard, Emmanuel
85bfa8f2-8259-4f6a-b2d5-645745dba6ff
Buttler, Alexandre
df5e7c83-0729-4d2c-9534-0331eb8155c8
Gay-des-Combes, Justine Marie
afd58125-21c3-4483-9be2-29e14c17c6b2
Sanz Carrillo, Clara
7cba4edb-81de-49d7-bb07-dcfa8808ed16
Robroek, Bjorn Jozef Maria
06dcb269-687c-41db-ab73-f61899617f92
Jassey, Vincent Eric Jules
f6f6f690-1b5e-4f7f-9cb3-b5cf325585b8
Mills, Robert Thomas Edmund
8e3adaf0-347f-4782-b8ef-00b3ab0a3cb5
Arif, Muhammad Saleem
f1db87cf-b645-4c9b-adcb-78c98dfd468a
Falquet, Leia
1f979bd1-3201-467f-8076-9714df8bd95a
Frossard, Emmanuel
85bfa8f2-8259-4f6a-b2d5-645745dba6ff
Buttler, Alexandre
df5e7c83-0729-4d2c-9534-0331eb8155c8

Gay-des-Combes, Justine Marie, Sanz Carrillo, Clara, Robroek, Bjorn Jozef Maria, Jassey, Vincent Eric Jules, Mills, Robert Thomas Edmund, Arif, Muhammad Saleem, Falquet, Leia, Frossard, Emmanuel and Buttler, Alexandre (2017) Tropical soils degraded by slash-and-burn cultivation can be recultivated when amended with ashes and compost. Ecology and Evolution. (doi:10.1002/ece3.3104).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In many tropical regions, slash-and-burn agriculture is considered as a driver of deforestation; the forest is converted into agricultural land by cutting and burning the trees. However, the fields are abandoned after few years because of yield decrease and weed invasion. Consequently, new surfaces are regularly cleared from the primary forest. We propose a reclamation strategy for abandoned fields allowing and sustaining re-cultivation. In the dry region of south-western Madagascar, we tested, according to a split-plot design, an alternative selective slash-and-burn cultivation technique coupled with compost amendment on 30-year-old abandoned fields. Corn plants (Zea mays L.) were grown on four different types of soil amendments: no amendment (control), compost, ashes (as in traditional slash-and-burn cultivation), and compost + ashes additions. Furthermore, two tree cover treatments were applied: 0% tree cover (as in traditional slash-and-burn cultivation) and 50% tree cover (selective slash-and-burn). Both corn growth and soil fertility parameters were monitored during the growing season 2015 up to final harvest. The amendment compost + ashes strongly increased corn yield, which was multiplied by 4-5 in comparison with ashes or compost alone, reaching 1.5 t/ha compared to 0.25 and 0.35 t/ha for ashes and compost, respectively. On control plots, yield was negligible as expected on these degraded soils. Structural equation modeling evidenced that compost and ashes were complementary fertilizing pathways promoting soil fertility through positive effects on soil moisture, pH, organic matter, and microbial activity. Concerning the tree cover treatment, yield was reduced on shaded plots (50% tree cover) compared to sunny plots (0% tree cover) for all soil amendments, except ashes. To conclude, our results provide empirical evidence on the potential of recultivating tropical degraded soils with compost and ashes. This would help mitigating deforestation of the primary forest by increasing lifespan of agricultural lands.

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Accepted/In Press date: 8 May 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 12 June 2017
Keywords: Crop yield, Deforestation, Microbial activity, Organic matter, Soil fertility, Structural equation model
Organisations: University of Southampton

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 411952
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/411952
ISSN: 2045-7758
PURE UUID: 235a30a8-0dad-4c95-ab0c-109bef5a1287
ORCID for Bjorn Jozef Maria Robroek: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6714-0652

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Date deposited: 03 Jul 2017 16:31
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 02:14

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Contributors

Author: Justine Marie Gay-des-Combes
Author: Clara Sanz Carrillo
Author: Bjorn Jozef Maria Robroek ORCID iD
Author: Vincent Eric Jules Jassey
Author: Robert Thomas Edmund Mills
Author: Muhammad Saleem Arif
Author: Leia Falquet
Author: Emmanuel Frossard
Author: Alexandre Buttler

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