Soil fertility under Calliandra calothyrsus hedgerows and other land-use treatments following forest clearance in Jamaica
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An experiment in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica investigated the consequences of three land-use treatments applied following forest clearance on soil fertility and resulting crop growth over a five year period. The treatments were: maintained weed-free without cultivation (bare); cultivated with herbaceous crops (agriculture); and cultivated with herbaceous crops and intercropped with Calliandra calothyrsus contour hedges (agroforestry) and compared with an uncleared secondary forest control (forest). Nitrogen mineralisation rates declined over time since forest clearance in the cleared treatments, but not in the forest. In the second and third years after clearance nitrogen mineralisation was higher under the hedgerows than all other treatments. However, by the fifth year this had reduced to net immobilization (both under and between hedgerows). Under controlled shade-house conditions bioassay plant growth was similar in soil from agricultural plots and from forest plots. In all the soils bioassay plant growth showed a slight (not significant) positive response to P addition. However, it did show a large positive response to N addition in all soils: most for agriculture soils, least for forest soils and intermediate for agroforestry. Crop plants growing in the agroforestry plots had significantly higher growth than those in the agriculture plots. This was sufficient to lead to grain yield per hectare being only 5% lower in agroforestry plots despite there being c. 20% fewer maize plants per hectare than in the agriculture plots. However, the results suggest that there was no clear positive effect of C. calothyrsus on soil fertility five years after establishment.