decomposition, n and c cycling from food and cover crop residues in the central plateau of haiti
Lynch, Madalyn Josephine
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Much of Haitian agriculture is characterized by subsistence farming systems on eroded and nutrient-poor soils. Implementation of Conservation Agriculture systems has proven effective at improving soil quality and crop yield in many areas of the world, including areas similar to those in Haiti. While most Haitian smallholder farmers are highly resource-limited and adoption of new technologies is limited, these farmers are known to adopt new crops and practices if benefits that outweigh risks are demonstrated. Cover crops that help provide soil cover and increase nutrient mineralization are one of the most potentially beneficial changes that could be made on most smallholder farms. However, before specific cover crop recommendations can be made, their potential benefits need to be quantified. One field experiment in the summer of 2013 assessed decomposition rates and nutrient mineralization from common cash crops and two potential cover crops either on the soil surface or buried at 15 cm. The relative difficulty and expense of conducting these types of field trials led to the development and assessment of a laboratory-based system that could be used to simulate plant residue decomposition and nutrient release under controlled conditions. Additional benefits of a laboratory-based study include the ability to test significantly more treatment combinations than would likely be possible under field conditions and to control nearly all other experimental variables, other than the desired treatment comparisons.
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