Effects of alley cropping systems on yield and nutrition of forage crops in Saskatchewan
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The agroforestry practice of establishing shelterbelts and/or windbreaks composed of tree and shrub species that include buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea Nutt.), caragana (Caragana arborescens Lam.) and sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is widespread within Saskatchewan. Shelterbelts play major roles in reducing wind speed, trapping snow, improving land-use efficiency and increasing economic returns. However, the practice of alley cropping within Saskatchewan is not popular. Also, apart from the protective roles the tree species offer in shelterbelts, some species have atmospheric nitrogen (N2)-fixation capabilities through biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) that are potentially important. The simultaneous integration of trees and crops on the same land management unit may lead to competition between crops and trees for growth resources such as nutrients, soil moisture and incoming radiation, the latter leading to limited access of light for understory crops. Understanding the contributions of the trees in supplying nitrogen (N) through BNF and in modifying microclimatic conditions in the alleyways would generate information needed to know their impacts on yield and nutrition of associated crops. In order to assess the contribution of the tree species in supplying N and minimizing interspecific competition while maximizing the benefits of tree-based intercropping systems, the thesis quantified the BNF capabilities of each species under greenhouse conditions using 15N dilution techniques and assessed how much of the fixed N2 is transferred to associated triticale (Triticale hexaploide Lart.) and oats (Avena sativa L.) under field conditions. Growth and yield of oats was also studied by measuring photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and soil moisture in a Manitoba maple (Acer negundo var. negundo L.) -oats alley cropping system at Indian Head, SK. The BNF results showed that each of the test species fixes a substantial amount of N and there was a high transfer of N to associated triticale and oats. Results from the interspecific interaction study also showed that soil moisture was the primary factor affecting oats yields followed by light, with the south-lying oat plants affected more than north-lying. It can be concluded that alley cropping systems can be a practical and beneficial agroforestry practice within Saskatchewan. However, the distance between tree rows should be wide enough to permit farm machinery operations.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorKnight, Diane J.; Kimaro, Anthony
CommitteeBedard-Huaghn, Angela; Kort, John
Copyright DateDecember 2013