a1 Rubber Research Institute of India, Kottayam 686 009, Kerala, India
Understanding the growth dynamics of fine roots and their contribution to soil organic carbon and nutrient pools is crucial for estimating ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling and how these are influenced by climate change. Rubber is cultivated in more than 10 million hectare globally and the area under rubber cultivation is fast expanding due to socio-economic reasons, apart from the importance given to this species for eco-restoration of degraded lands. An experiment was conducted to quantify fine root production, fine root turnover and carbon and nutrient cycling through fine roots in rubber plantations with different soil nutrient status and rainfall pattern. Fine root production was estimated by sequential coring and ingrowth core methods. Fine root decomposition was determined by the litter bag technique. Carbon and nutrient contents in fine roots were determined and their turnover was computed. Fine root biomass in the top 0–7.5-cm soil layer showed significant seasonal fluctuation and the fluctuations were particularly wide during the transition period from the dry season to the rainy season. Fine root production estimated by the different methods was significantly higher at the lower fertility site and during the higher soil moisture stress year. Fine root turnover ranged from 1.04 to 2.29 year−1. Root carbon and nutrient status showed seasonal variation and lower status was observed during the rainy season. The annual recycling of C, N, P, K, Ca and Mg through fine roots ranged from 590 to 1758, 30 to 85, 3 to 12, 13 to 31, 11 to 35 and 6 to 13 kg ha−1, respectively. Substantial quantities of carbon and nutrients were recycled annually in rubber plantations through fine roots. When soil moisture and nutrient stress were more severe, fine root production, turnover and carbon and nutrient recycling through fine roots were higher.
(Accepted February 08 2013)
(Online publication March 06 2013)