Living Mulch - Plant Nutrition

Plant Nutrition

Legume cover crops have important positive effects on the nutrient cycling of tree crops. Leguminous living mulches work in three ways:

  • Fixing the atmospheric N2 that is important for the main crop,
  • Recycling soil nutrients, and
  • Enhancing soil nutrient availability for the main crop.

Lehmann et al. (2000) measured the above ground biomass accumulation of Pueraria phaseoloides, which is a living mulch used in tropical tree crops. They found that Pueraria accumulated 838 mg of dm (dry matter) ha-1 as compared with 4.4 mg dm ha-1 for Theobroma grandiflorum, and 1.4 mg dm ha-1 for Bactris gasipaes. These latter two species are native cultivated species from the Amazon.

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