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Alley cropping in the moist savanna of West Africa II. Impact on soil productivity in a northtosouth transect in Togo
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The moist savanna of West-Africa is characterized by a wide range of climates and soil types. The impact of the biophysical environment on hedgerow N uptake, wood production and maize grain yield was assessed for three years in three alley cropping trials with a selected number of hedgerow species in Glidji (Southern Togo), Amoutchou (Central Togo), and Sarakawa (Northern Togo). Senna siamea hedgerows accumulated significantly more N in the first pruning in Glidji (129−138 kg N ha−1) and Sarakawa (102−185 kg N ha−1) than in Amoutchou (17–26 kg N ha−1). This difference in N uptake was attributed to the infertile subsoil in Amoutchou, which was sandy up to 1 m and had a shallow groundwater-table. The amount of N accumulated in the Gliricidia sepium biomass varied between 38 kg N ha−1 in Glidji and 142 kg N ha−1 in Amoutchou. Averaged over all species and sites, 9 to 29% and 9 to 39% of the annual N accumulation in the hedgerow biomass is incorporated in the second, respectively third pruning. The Gliricidia trees produced between 12 and 26 ton fresh matter ha−1 of wood and the Senna trees between 4 and 38 ton fresh matter ha−1. Maize grain yield in Glidji was not affected by treatments (3196 kg ha−1, on average). In Amoutchou, the highest grain production was observed in the Gliricidia treatment (2774 kg ha−1 vs 1007 kg ha−1 in the control), while in Sarakawa, the Gliricidia (3786 kg ha−1) and Senna (3842 kg ha−1) plots produced a greater grain yield than the control plots (2123 kg ha−1). Maize yield increase in the alley cropping systems relative to the control plots was related to the soil total N content. Top and sub-soil characteristics were shown to be an important modifier of the functioning of alley cropping systems and should be taken into account when deciding on whether to use alley cropping and when selecting the hedgerow species.