Soil nitrate variations under grass, sorghum and bare fallow in semi-arid Kenya.
Topsoil nitrate was measured every few days under grass, sorghum and bare fallow at two sites in lower Embu District, Kenya. Concentrations were highest soon after the start of rain and within a week most nitrate had been lost. Under bare fallow and sorghum, nitrate concentration increased during dry weather and losses occurred when soil water content exceeded 10%. Modelling of soil water movement indicated that there was no leaching below the rooting zone, so denitrification may be the main route for loss of soil nitrogen. Application of nitrogen fertilizer early in the season is not recommended as it would be lost with the native soil nitrate. The use of phosphorus fertilizer at the phosphorus-deficient site reduced soil nitrate concentration throughout the season and increased nitrogen uptake by sorghum. At the phosphorus-rich site, vigorous sorghum growth kept the soil nitrate concentration low, even though much nitrate was produced and lost in bare fallow. Adequate soil phosphorus is considered essential if the natural nitrogen resources of the soil are to be managed efficiently.
Warren, G.P., Atwal, S.S. and Irungu, J.W (1997) Soil nitrate variations under grass, sorghum and bare fallow in semi-arid Kenya. Experimental Agriculture, 33 (3) 321-333 [DOI: 10.1017/S0014479797003025]