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Fertilizers in agroforestry systems

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This review encompasses results of fertilization experiments on several agroforestry systems—alley cropping, perennial shade systems, home gardens—in which fertilizer use is a likely management alternative. Fertilizer response was found to be most common in alley cropping, variable in perennial shade systems, and rarely reported in home gardens. Level of nutrient removal in harvested products is probably the overriding factor in determining fertilizer response; greater accumulation of organic residues, slower growth under shade, and longer periods of nutrient uptake probably also contribute to the relatively smaller fertilizer response of the perennial shade systems and home gardens. Considerable knowledge gaps exist regarding the breakdown of organic residues, and interactions between mineral and organic amendments. Systems based on annual crops (e.g., alley cropping) are likely to be less nutrient-efficient and sustainable than systems based on perennial crops, due to reduced fixation and transfer of N to the crops, the tendency of the trees to compete for and sequester nutrients, relatively high P requirements of the crops, and the high labor cost of tree management. The possible benefits of fertilization of specific components in home gardens, and relative advantages of including low-value tree legumes, high-value shade trees, and fertilization in shaded perennial systems are only beginning to receive research attention.

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Szott, L.T., Kass, D.C.L. Fertilizers in agroforestry systems. Agroforest Syst 23, 157–176 (1993).

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Key words

  • alley cropping
  • fertilization
  • home gardens
  • nutrient cycling
  • organic fertilizer
  • shaded perennials