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Mineral fertilizer response and nutrient use efficiencies of East African highland banana (Musa spp., AAAEAHB, cv. Kisansa)
Asten, Piet J.A. van
Giller, Ken E.
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Poor yields of East African highland bananas (Musa spp., AAA-EAHB) on smallholder farms have often been attributed to problems of poor soil fertility. We measured the effects of mineral fertilizers on crop performance at two sites over two to three crop cycles; Kawanda in central Uganda and Ntungamo in southwest Uganda. Fertilizers were applied at rates of 0N–50P–600K, 150N–50P–600K, 400N–0P–600K, 400N–50P–0K, 400N–50P–250K and 400N–50P–600K kg ha−1 yr−1. In addition 60Mg–6Zn–0.5Mo–1B kg ha−1 yr−1 was applied to all treatments, with the exception of the control plots which received no fertilizer. Fresh bunch mass and yield increased with successive cycles. Yield increases above the control ranged from 3.1 to 6.2 kg bunch−1 (average bunch weight for all treatments 11.5 kg bunch−1) and 2.2–11.2 Mg ha−1 yr−1 (average yield for all treatments 15.8 Mg ha−1 yr−1) at Kawanda, compared with 12.4–16.0 kg bunch−1 (average bunch weight for all treatments 14.7 kg bunch−1) and 7.0–29.5 Mg ha−1 yr−1 (average yield for all treatments 17.9 Mg ha−1 yr−1) at Ntungamo. The limiting nutrients at both sites were in the order K > P > N. Potassium, N and P foliar nutrient mass fractions were below previously established Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) norms, with the smallest K mass fractions observed in the best yielding plots at Ntungamo. Total nutrient uptakes (K > N > P) were higher at Ntungamo as compared with Kawanda, probably due to better soil moisture availability and root exploration of the soil. Average N, P and K conversion efficiencies for two crop cycles at both sites amounted to 49.2 kg finger DM kg−1 N, 587 kg finger DM kg−1 P and 10.8 kg finger DM kg−1 K. Calibration results of the model QUEFTS using data from Ntungamo were reasonable (R2 = 0.57, RMSE = 648 kg ha−1). Using the measured soil chemical properties and yield data from an experiment at Mbarara in southwest Uganda, the calibrated QUEFTS model predicted yields well (R2 = 0.68, RMSE = 562 kg ha−1). We conclude that banana yields can be increased by use of mineral fertilizers, but fertilizer recovery efficiencies need to improve substantially before promoting wide-scale adoption.