Effects of Tillage, Organic Resources and Nitrogen Fertiliser on Soil Carbon Dynamics and Crop Nitrogen Uptake in Semi-arid West Africa

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Tillage, organic resources and fertiliser effects on soil carbon (C) dynamics were investigated in 2000 and 2001 in Burkina Faso (West Africa). A split plot design with four replications was laid-out on a loamy-sand Ferric Lixisol with till and no-till as main treatments and fertiliser types as sub-treatments. Soil was fractionated physically into coarse (0.250–2 mm), medium (0.053– 0.250 mm) and fine fractions (< 0.053 mm). Particulate organic carbon (POC) accounted for 47–53% of total soil organic carbon (SOC) concentration and particulate organic nitrogen (PON) for 30–37% of total soil nitrogen concentration. The POC decreased from 53% of total SOC in 2000 to 47% of total SOC in 2001. Tillage increased the contribution of POC to SOC. No-till led to the lowest loss in SOC in the fine fraction compared to tilled plots. Well-decomposed compost and single urea application in tilled as well as in no-till plots induced loss in POC. Crop N uptake was enhanced in tilled plots and may be up to 226 kg N ha 1 against a maximum of 146 kg N ha 1 in no-till plots. Combining crop residues and urea enhanced incorporation of new organic matter in the coarse fraction and the reduction of soil carbon mineralisation from the fine fraction. The PON and crop N uptake are strongly correlated in both till and no-till plots. Mineral-associated N is more correlated to N uptake by crop in tilled than in no-till plots. Combining recalcitrant organic resources and nitrogen fertiliser is the best option for sustaining crop production and reducing soil carbon decline in the more stabilised soil fraction in the semi-arid West Africa.
Tillage, Nitrogen