Exploring below ground complementarity in agroforestry using sap flow and root fractal techniques

Abstract

Indices of shallow rootedness and fractal methods of root system study were combined with sapflow monitoring to determine whether these ‘short-cut’ methods could be used to predict tree competition with crops and complementarity of below ground resource use in an agroforestry trial in semi-arid Kenya. These methods were applied to Grevillea robusta Cunn., Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp., Melia volkensii Gürke and Senna spectabilis syn. Cassia spectabilis aged two and four years which were grown in simultaneous linear agroforestry plots with maize as the crop species. Indices of competition (shallow rootedness) differed substantially according to tree age and did not accurately predict tree:crop competition in plots containing trees aged four years. Predicted competition by trees on crops was improved by multiplying the sum of proximal diameters squared for shallow roots by diameter at breast height2, thus taking tree size into account. Fractal methods for the quantification of total length of tree root systems worked well with the permanent structural root system of trees but seriously underestimated the length of fine roots (less than 2 mm diameter). Sap flow measurements of individual roots showed that as expected, deep tap roots provided most of the water used by the trees during the dry season. Following rainfall, substantial water uptake by shallow lateral roots occurred more or less immediately, suggesting that existing roots were functioning in the recently wetted soil and that there was no need for new fine roots to be produced to enable water uptake following rainfall.

Citation

ONG, C.K., WILSON, J.,MUTUA, J., DEANS, J.D. AND LAWSON, E.M. (1989). Exploring below ground complementarity in agroforestry using sap flow and root fractal techniques. Agroforestry Systems. 1989/1990. 44. (1). pp. 87-103. [DOI: 10.1023/A:1006137707806]

Exploring below ground complementarity in agroforestry using sap flow and root fractal techniques

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