Different fertilizer types affected nitrogen and carbon cycling in eroded and colluvial soils of Southern Ecuador


A tropical smallholder cash crop farming system in a semi-arid Inter-Andean valley of Ecuador was investigated. Intensive irrigated agriculture with up to 400 kg of urea-N fertilization ha-1·a-1 prevails in colluvial sites whereas urea application in the steep eroded sites is lower. Farmers did recently introduce manure to partly replace urea fertilization. Knowledge about the effects of mineral and organic fertilizers on nitrogen and carbon cycling needs to be improved to maintain sustainable agriculture in the research area. Therefore, a laboratory incubation experiment was conducted to investigate effects of urea and guinea pig manure on microbial activity of col-luvial foot slope and eroded upper slope soils. Soil samples were treated with 200 kg·N·ha-1 either applied as urea, guinea pig manure or a combination of both and compared to a control. Urea fertilizer was labeled with 15N to trace its fate. Microbial biomass and basal respiration were determined in different time intervals. Urea fertilization induced an acceleration of soil organic matter (SOM) mineralization (positive priming effect) in the first seven days of incubation. The combined fertilization served as a positive alternative to the present urea management since it increased the amount of microbial biomass and provided mineral nitrogen for immediate plant uptake. Moreover, low recovery rates suggested an immobilization of fertilized nitrogen into the microbial biomass inducing an efficient and sustained nutrient release throughout the entire growing season. SOM stocks in colluvial soils were 40% below those of eroded soils which was partly due to the positive priming effect after urea fertilization. Microbial activity and efficiency were not reduced by soil erosion.

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Bahr, E. , Hamer, U. , Chamba Zaragocin, D. and Makeschin, F. (2013) Different fertilizer types affected nitrogen and carbon cycling in eroded and colluvial soils of Southern Ecuador. Agricultural Sciences, 4, 19-32. doi: 10.4236/as.2013.412A002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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