Decomposition of leaves from two indigenous trees of contrasting qualities under shaded-coffee and agricultural land-uses during the dry season at Wondo Genet, Ethiopia
To explore the potential of trees and shrubs on farmlands on traditional systems in southern Ethiopia, mineralization of macronutrients and loss of organics from leaves of Cordia africana and Albizia gummifera were studied under shaded-coffee and agricultural land-uses during the dry season. Leaves in litterbags were incorporated at 15 cm depth in soil under both land uses and residues were recovered after 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks. Contents of macronutrients and organics in initial and recovered residues were measured. Single- or double-exponential decay or quadratic functions were fitted to describe patterns of decay or release of various leaf constituents. The two species differed significantly (P < 0.05) with respect to contents of ash, N, P, K, cellulose (CEL), lignin (LG), total soluble polyphenols (PL), and condensed tannins (CT). Cordia had higher content of ash, K, P, CEL, LG and a higher C-to-N ratio while Albizia had higher contents of N, PL, CT and a higher C-to-P ratio. Albizia had significantly greater mass loss, N loss and release of CT than Cordia. N was immobilized for the first 4 weeks in most treatments. Across land uses and species, mass loss rates varied from -0.023 week-1 in Cordia to -0.034 week-1 in Albizia (R2 > 0.70). Higher rate of release of CT seems to have facilitated decomposition in Albizia despite higher initial PL and CT in the leaves of this species.
There was no significant land-use effect on any of the variables considered. It was concluded that under drier conditions, tree cover might not affect decomposition, and that organic residues with high content of polyphenols, particularly condensed tannins could decompose faster than those with lower content. This suggests that indigenous tree species with high concentrations of tannins, supposedly considered to be of ‘poor quality’, might still be quite useful as an organic input for improving soil fertility and productivity in the tropics.
Teklay, T. & Malmer, A. (2004). Decomposition of leaves from two indigenous trees of contrasting qualities under shaded-coffee and agricultural land-uses during the dry season at Wondo Genet, Ethiopia. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. 36: 777-786.