Item Details

Title: The Potential of Tree and Shrub Legumes in Agroforestry Systems

Date Published: 2018
Author/s: Ana I. Ribeiro-Barros, Maria J. Silva, Isabel Moura, José C. Ramalho, Cristina Máguas-Hanson and Natasha S. Ribeiro
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Keywords: Africa, agroforestry, climate changes, sustainable agriculture, tree, shrub


Climate variability and changes are utmost important primary drivers of biological
processes. They are intimately associated with a wide array of abiotic stresses, high-
lighting the vulnerability of ecosystems and endangering biodiversity. Nitrogen-fix-
ing trees and shrubs (NFTSs) constitute a unique group of plants for their wide range
of applications at the environmental, social and economic levels. In this chapter, we
review and analyse the potential of this group of legumes in agroforestry towards
sustainable agriculture in Africa. In the first part, the intertwined pillar of sustainable
agriculture is brought forward under the context of growing population and climate
changes. The second part addresses general aspects of legumes, including botany and
the symbiosis with rhizobia. The third part includes the application of NFTS as N-fertil-
izers in agroforestry, highlighting the importance of an accurate choice of the crop(s)/
NFTS combination(s) and cropping type (intercropping, multistrata or fallows). The
implementation of agroforestry systems with NFTS should be supported by funda-
mental research strategies such as stable isotopes and systems biology and preceded by
experimental assays, in order to identify the factors promoting N-losses and to design
appropriate management strategies that synchronize legume-N availability with the
crop demand.