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Approaches to efficiently manage soil fertility

An integrated soil fertility management aims at maximizing the efficiency of the agronomic use of nutrients and improving crop productivity. This can be achieved through the use of grain legumes, which enhance soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation, and the application of chemical fertilizers.

Whether grown as pulses for grain, as green manure, as pastures or as the tree components of agro-forestry systems, a key value of leguminous crops lies in their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, which helps reduce the use of commercial nitrogen fertilizer and enhances soil fertility. Nitrogen-fixing legumes are the basis for sustainable farming systems that incorporate integrated nutrient management. Use of nitrogen-15 lends understanding of the dynamics and interactions between various pools in agricultural systems, including nitrogen fixation by legumes and utilization of soil and fertilizer nitrogen by crops, both in sole and mixed cropping systems.

Soil fertility can be further improved by incorporating cover crops that add organic matter to the soil, which leads to improved soil structure and promotes a healthy, fertile soil; by using green manure or growing legumes to fix nitrogen from the air through the process of biological nitrogen fixation; by micro-dose fertilizer applications, to replenish losses through plant uptake and other processes; and by minimizing losses through leaching below the crop rooting zone by improved water and nutrient application.

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