Access and excess problems in plant nutrition

Noordwijk, Meine van and Cadisch, Georg (2002) Access and excess problems in plant nutrition. Plant and Soil, 247 (2). pp. 25-40.

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As plant nutrition issues are redefined by society, new applications emerge for a basic understanding of nutrient use efficiency in soil-plant processes to avoid excess on rich soils as commonly found in the temperate zone and make the best of it under access-limited conditions common in the tropics. The main challenge of plant nutrition may be to increase the width of the domain between the access and excess frontiers, rather than to define a single ‘economic optimum’ point. Two approaches are discussed to widen this domain: the technical paradigm of precision farming and the ecological analogue approach based on filter functions and complementarity of components in mixed plant systems. Current understanding of plant nutrition, largely focused on monocultural situations, needs to be augmented by the interactions that occur in more complex systems, including agroforestry and intercropping as these may form part of the answer in both the excess and shortage type of situation. Simulations with the WaNuLCAS model to explore the concepts of a ’safety-net’ for mobile nutrients by deep rooted plants suggested a limited but real opportunity to intercept nutrients on their way out of the system and thus increase nutrient use-efficiency at the system level. The impacts of rhizosphere modification to mobilize nutrients in mixed-species systems were shown to depend on the degree of synlocation of roots of the various plant components, as well as on the long-term replenishment of the nutrient resources accessed. In conclusion, the concepts and tools to help farmers navigate between the scylla of access and the charibdis of excess problems in plant nutrition certainly exist, but their use requires an appreciation of the site-specific interactions and various levels of internal regulation, rather than a reliance alone on genetic modification of plants aimed at transferring specific mechanisms out of context.

Item Type: Article
Author Affiliation: International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), Bogor, Indonesia, P.O.Box 161, Bogor, 16001, Indonesia
Subjects: Crop Improvement
Divisions: Other Crops
Depositing User: Sandhya Gir
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2011 20:19
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 20:20
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