Sustaining soil functions in agro-ecosystems
This special issue of the journal Agronomy aims to demonstrate judicious farming systems, where environmentally-sound practices are utilized, simultaneously maintaining soil functions, supporting environmental quality, and sustaining agricultural productivity. In many agricultural lands, the clearing of natural vegetation, as well as a range of farming practices, have threatened soil functions, altogether resulting in the degradation of soil quality and geo-ecosystem functioning. Yet, a large part of these detrimental effects, on-farm and off-farm, can be avoided, and the utilization of conservation or integrated management practices could considerably alleviate the environmental footprint of agriculture. One article (PDF) discusses the impacts of fertilization type on soil microbial biomass and nutrient availability in two agroecological zones of Ghana. Soil quality improvement were observed under inorganic fertilization in both agroecologies in contrast to significant soil deterioration under sole organic residue application in one zone. The present results suggest the need to raise the current fertilizer application rates in order to enhance optimum soil productivity. Another article (PDF) looks at the effect of organic and inorganic fertilizers on the yield of two contrasting soybean varieties and residual nutrient effects on a subsequent finger millet crop. This study showed that planting of finger millet after a soybean precursor crop even without fertilizer application could give better yield and economic benefits as it saves 70–85% of chemical fertilizer costs compared to the farmers’ practice.