Fertility of tropical soils

Improving fertility of heavily weathered tropical soils through optimal crop rotation, adequate management of organic matter and the use of mycorrhiza

Most soils in the (semi-) humid tropics are heavily weathered and characterized by low nutrient levels due to their typical mineral composition in combination with inadequate fertility management practices. This leads to low crop yields under the traditional farming systems and further degradation of the soil. A more sustainable food production implies an integrated fertility management including an optimal crop rotation, the use of improved varieties, application of organic fertilizers like green manure in combination with micro-doses of mineral fertilizer, and so on. This research aims to study the effect of above mentioned factors by means of a 5-year field experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, focusing on different crop rotations and levels of fertilization, with the traditional cassava monoculture as a reference.
Another tool to improve nutrient uptake in low input agriculture can be the use of mycorrhiza. Especially in tropical soils which are typically low in phosphorus, these fungi could enhance the solubilization and uptake of this element. Therefore, second objective of this research is to characterize the mycorrhizal communities present at various locations in the area of Kisangani. Additionally, several monospore species will be produced and screened in bio-assays for possible plant growth promoting effects.

Contact: Jolien Venneman
Funding: University College Ghent (Research Fund)
Supervisors: Prof. dr.ir. Geert Haesaert, Prof. dr. Geert Baert
Period: 2012-2018