Effect of a legume cover crop on carbon storage and erosion in an ultisol under maize cultivation in southern Benin

Abstract : Field experiment was conducted from 1988 to 1999 at an experimental farm at Agonkanmey, near Cotonou in southern Benin, to study the effect of relay-cropping maize through Mucuna pruriens (var. utilis). The relay-cropping system was compared with traditional maize cropping system without any input, and with a maize cropping system with mineral fertilizers (NPK). Special attention was given on the changes in soil C during the period of the experiment in relation to residue biomass C returned to the soil, runoff and soil erosion losses, and loss of C with erosion. The soils are classified as sandy loam Typic Kandiustult. The general properties of these soils are given. For this soil type, relay cropping of maize and mucuna was very effective in enhancing C sequestration: change in Ct (total C content) stock for 0 to 40 cm depth was 1.3 t C/ha per year over the 12-year period of the experiment, ranging among the highest rates recorded for the eco-region. This increase resulted first from the high amount of residue biomass provided by mucuna, which amounted to 10 t DM/ha per year (83% aboveground). Mucuna residues, supplying the soil with N, also favoured the production of maize biomass, and total mucuna plus maize residue biomass returned to the soil was approximately 20 t/ha per year. In contrast, non-fertilized and fertilized continuous maize cultivation resulted in -0.2 and 0.2 t C/ha per year change in Ct stock for 0 to 40 cm depth, respectively. Total residue biomass was 8 and 13 t/ha per year, including 77 and 29% by weeds, respectively. Thick mulch produced by mucuna decreased losses by runoff and erosion, which were 0.28, 0.12 and 0.08 mm/mm and 34.0, 9.0 and 3.0 t/ha per year in unfertilized, fertilized with NPK and mucuna treatments, respectively. Eroded C was estimated at 0.3, 0.1 and 1.0 t C/ha per year in unfertilized, fertilized with NPK and mucuna treatments, respectively. Through its benefits on soil organic matter management, weed suppression and erosion control, cropping systems including a legume crop may have an adverse impact from a global change standpoint.
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B. Barthes, A. Azontonde, E. Blanchart, C. Girardin, C. Villenave, et al.. Effect of a legume cover crop on carbon storage and erosion in an ultisol under maize cultivation in southern Benin. Soil erosion and carbon dynamics, CRC Press LLC; Boca Raton; USA, pp.143-155, 2006. ⟨bioemco-00175371⟩

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