Public Release: 

Analyzing agroforestry management

Agroforestry management can improve yields and reduce environmental costs

American Society of Agronomy

MADISON, WI, JUNE 28, 2011 -- The evaluation of both nutrient and non-nutrient resource interactions provides information needed to sustainably manage agroforestry systems. Improved diagnosis of appropriate nutrient usage will help increase yields and also reduce financial and environmental costs. To achieve this, a management support system that allows for site-specific evaluation of nutrient-production imbalances is needed.

Scientists at the University of Toronto and the University of Saskatchewan have developed a conceptual framework to diagnosis nutrient and non-nutrient interactions in agroecosystems. This work was partially financed by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation through the PANTIL program at SUA.

The scientists revisited vector analysis, a model used to see changes in yield and nutritional response in a single graph. The result is an outline for diagnosing these interactions. The complete results from this study can be found in the special issue on Agroforestry and Environmental Quality from the Journal of Environmental Quality.

The current model does not consider non-nutrient resource effects on growth, such as light conditions and soil moisture content. In this study, scientists analyzed data from field trials of cocoa and pigeon pea intercropping systems using vector analysis. They quantified nutrient and non-nutrient interactions, illustrating the application of this analysis for managing agroforestry systems.

Using their advanced model, scientists were able to increase the yields of both cocoa and pigeon pea rotated with maize. Additionally, phosphorus concentrations declined, reducing environmental impact. These improvements were attributed to better light conditions for the cocoa and alleviated soil moisture competition for the pigeon pea crop.

These results helped in the production of an agroforestry management system that considers both nutrient and non-nutrient interactions. This advancement allows for an accurate way to correct nutrient imbalances, and helps sustain productivity while reducing environmental risks.

Scientist Marney Isaac explains, "Linking crop performance to appropriate nutrient application, as well as quantifying existing nutrient cycles and interactions, will not only have the economic advantage of increasing yields but will also diminish financial and environmental costs."

Further research is currently being conducted at the University of Toronto and the University of Saskatchewan to gather data on nutrient and non-nutrient interactions in agroforestry/multispecies systems to advance diagnostic techniques.

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Photo Caption: Shade tree light levels in an agroforestry system play a significant role in production and nutrient cycling.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at https://www.soils.org/publications/jeq/articles/40/3/860.

The Journal of Environmental Quality is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.

CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives. For more information, visit www.crops.org.

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

SSSA supports its members by providing quality research-based publications, educational programs, certifications, and science policy initiatives via a Washington, DC, office. Founded in 1936, SSSA celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year (2011). For more information, visit www.soils.org or follow @SSSA_soils on Twitter.

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