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Nutrient budget under slash and burn agriculture jhum with different weeding regimes in northeastern india



Nutrient budget under slash and burn agriculture jhum with different weeding regimes in northeastern india



Acta Oecologica Oecologia Applicata 9(1): 85-102



Nitrogen and phosphorus budgets under slash and burn agricultural (jhum) with 20- and 5-year jhum cycles were analysed at lower elevations of Meghalaya in north-east India. Three weeding regimes, namely total-weeding, traditional partial-weeding with 20% weed biomass left in situ, and no-weeding, were also considered. There is evidence to suggest much loss of nitrogen and some loss of phosphorus occurred after the burn. The net loss of nitrogen and gain in phosphorus at the end of the cropping period was higher after a 20-year jhum cycle compared to a 5-year cycle. However the 20-year fallow period was sufficient to recover the nitrogen loss. Nutrient budgets under a given jhum cycle were not much different under traditional and total weeding regimes; the budget in unweeded plots was markedly altered. Under the short 5-year jhum cycle considered on a time scale of 20-years, a net loss of about 450 kg of nitrogen and 14 kg of phosphorus occurred which was never recovered. Considering potassium, calcium and magnesium, the net gain observed in soil cation levels in the post-burn soil is partly due to addition through slash and partly, perhaps, to heat-related interchange between non-exchangeable and exchangeable forms. The input of nutrients was generally higher under a longer jhum cycle with a consequent net higher gain. Though the nutrient content in the total weed biomass was higher under a 20-year jhum cycle, the contribution through herbaceous weed biomass was higher under a 5-year cycle due to increased herbaceous weed potential. The traditional-weeding regime contributed to conservation of nutrients in the agroecosystem as reflected in the generally higher net gain, when compared with other weeding regimes.

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