Manioc peel and charcoal: a potential organic amendment for sustainable soil fertility in the tropics
In tropical areas, where crop production is limited by low soil quality, the development of techniques improving soil fertility without damage to the environment is a priority. In French Guiana, we used subsistence farmer plots on poor acidic soils to test the effect of different organic amendments, bitter manioc peel (M), sawdust (Sw) and charcoal (Ch), on soil nutrient content, earthworm abundance and yard-long bean (Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis) production. The peregrine Pontoscolex corethrurus was the only earthworm species found. Pod production and plant growth were lowest in unamended soil. The application of a mixture of manioc peel and charcoal (M + Ch) improved legume production compared with other organic mixtures. It combined the favourable effects of manioc peel and charcoal. Manioc peel improved soil fertility through its low C:N ratio and its high P content, while charcoal decreased soil acidity and exchangeable Al and increased Ca and Mg availability, thus alleviating the possible toxic effects of Al on plant growth. The M + Ch treatment was favourable to P. corethrurus, the juvenile population of which reached a size comparable to that of the nearby uncultivated soil. The application of a mixture of manioc peel and charcoal, by improving crop production and soil fertility and enhancing earthworm activity, could be a potentially efficient organic manure for legume production in tropical areas where manioc is cultivated under slash-and-burn shifting agriculture.