Agrobiodiversity and potential use for enhancing soil health in tropical soils of Africa

Ayuke FO, Karanja NK, Okello J, Wachira P, Mutua GK, Lelei, D., Gachene CKK. "Agrobiodiversity and potential use for enhancing soil health in tropical soils of Africa.". In: In Hester, R.E., Harrison, R.M. (Eds)Soils and Food Security: Issues in Environmental Science and Technology, No 35, 5: 94-133 . London, United Kingdom: The Royal Society of Chemistry; 2012.


Land degradation and soil fertility decline is often cited as a major constraint to crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). As mineral and organic fertilisers are often limited in quantity and quality, soil
fertility research has focused on developing integrated management strategies to address soil fertility decline. Soil biotas are an essential component of soil health and constitute a major fraction of global
terrestrial biodiversity. Within the context of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), soil biota are responsible for the key ecosystem functions of decomposition and nutrient cycling, soil organic matter
synthesis and mineralisation, soil structural modification and aggregate stabilisation, nitrogen fixation, nutrient acquisition, regulation of atmospheric composition, the production of plant growth substances
and the biological control of soil-borne pests and diseases. Soil biological processes are not as well understood as are soil physical and chemical properties, creating opportunities for breakthroughs in
biotic function to provide better services to agriculture. These services accrue through two basic approaches: indirectly, as a result of promoting beneficial soil biological processes and ecosystem services through land management, or directly, through the introduction of beneficial organisms to the soil. Because of their sensitivity to disturbance and their importance in redistributing and transforming organic inputs, some of the soil biota groups, such as earthworms and termites, represent an important indicator of soil quality. In this chapter we have highlighted the importance of soil biodiversity, especially its potential use for enhancing soil health in tropical soils of SSA.

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