This paper describes a multi-disciplinary project to examine the changing interactions between trees and crops as the trees in semi-arid agroforestry systems establish and mature; the project is one of the most detailed and highly instrumented long-term studies of tree and crop growth, system performance, resource capture, hydrology and microclimate ever carried out within an agroforestry context. Its primary objective was to compile a comprehensive experimental database to improve the mechanistic understanding of tree/crop interactions and support the development and validation of process-based simulation models describing resource capture and tree and crop growth in semi-arid agroforestry systems.
Grevillea robusta A. Cunn. (grevillea) trees were grown as mono-cultures or in mixtures with cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) or maize (Zea mays L.) over a 68-month period. Allometric approaches were used to determine seasonal and annual growth increments for leaf area and leaf, branch and trunk biomass in grevillea. Crop performance was examined during each growing season, while the spatial distribution of tree and crop roots was established during the latter stages of the experiment using coring and mini-rhizotron approaches. Detailed hydrological studies examined effects on the soil water balance and its components (precipitation, interception, runoff and soil moisture status); equivalent measurements of spatial and temporal variation in microclimatic conditions allowed the mechanistic basis for beneficial and detrimental effects on understorey crops and the influence of proximity to trees on crop performance to be examined. Transpiration by grevillea and water movement through lateral and tap roots were measured using sap flow methodology, and light interception by the tree and crop canopies was routinely determined.
This multi-disciplinary study has provided a detailed understanding of the changing patterns of resource capture by trees and crops as agroforestry systems mature. This paper provides an overview of the underlying rationale, experimental design and core measurements, outlines key results and conclusions, and draws the attention of readers to further papers providing more detailed consideration of specific aspects of the study.
ONG, C.K., BLACK, C.R., WALLACE, J.S., KHAN, A.A.H. (2000). Productivity, microclimate and water use in Grevillea robusta-based agroforestry systems on hillslopes in semi-arid Kenya. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 80. pp. 121-141. [doi:10.1016/S0167-8809(00)00144-4]