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Forage production and mineral composition of cactus intercropped with legumes and fertilized with different sources of manure/Producao de forragem e composicao mineral da palma consorciada com leguminosas e adubada com diferentes fontes de esterco.


The spineless cactus IPA Sertania (Nopalea cochenillifera Salm Dyck) is characterized by its tolerance to arid conditions, high water use efficiency, increased biomass production potential, and resistance to the prickly pear cochineal (LOPES et al., 2010). It is commonly used in the semiarid region of the Northeast Region of Brazil in order to increase forage production and guarantee feed for herds during periods when less is available. Its cladodes are rich in energy, water, minerals, and vitamins; although, it has a low crude protein concentration of 4.8% and a low concentration of fiber (neutral detergent fiber=26.8%; acid detergent fiber=18.8%) (FERREIRA et al., 2012).

Introduction of forage legumes into cactus cultivation can complement animal diets by offering protein and fiber, as well as increasing N availability via biological nitrogen fixation or the decomposition of the corresponding litter, roots, and nodules. Leucaena [Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit.] and gliricidia [Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Steud.] are tree legumes adapted to the semiarid regions. They present high crude protein (averaging 18 to 30% in their leaves) and biomass production, and can be consumed by ruminants (EDWARDS et al., 2012).

In addition to the intercropping combination, soil fertility management is a main factor in cultivar productivity, particularly in arid and semiarid regions; the corresponding soil generally contains low quantities of organic material. Spineless cacti extract a large quantity of nutrients (DUBEUX JUNIOR et al., 2006) from soil. In addition, their cladodes are taken from the area where they are grown and provided to animals via trough feeding. As such, nutrients are not replaced, which, combined with erosion, tends to diminish productivity after continuous use (RAMOS et al., 2015).

Manure can serve to add organic material to soil, providing plants with nutrients and increasing overall cactus production. Generally speaking, an abundance of organic matter increases the dry matter production of forage cactus. Various studies have assessed manure quantity and source (SANTOS et al., 1996), and have reported linear increases in production up to 80Mg [ha.sup.-1] of cattle manure applied every two years, with plant density varying from 20,000 to 160,000 plants [ha.sup.-1] (SILVA et al., 2016). However, manure type has not been studied for cropping systems using tree legumes.

As such, the objective of this research is to evaluate the productive potential and mineral composition of the IPA-Sertania forage cactus when intercropped with leucaena and gliricidia tree legumes and fertilized with various manure sources.


The experiment was performed at the Experimental Station of the Instituto Agronomico de Pernambuco (08[degrees]14'18"S, 35[degrees]55'20"W; altitude of 537m) in Caruaru, PE, Brazil. The local climate is classified as BSh on the Koppen climate classification, specifically as a hot semi-arid climate, with an average annual precipitation of 694mm. The soil in the experimental area is classified as Regolithic Neosoil. A 0-20cm layer of soil was analyzed via the methodology described by EMBRAPA (2011), yielding the following chemical characteristics: pH ([H.sub.2]O) = 4.7; [Ca.sup.2+] = 1.85[cmol.sub.c] [dm.sup.-3]; [Mg.sup.2+] = 0.42[cmol.sub.c] [dm.sup.-3]; [K.sup.+] = 0.15cmolc [dm.sup.-3]; [Na.sup.+] = 0.07[cmol.sub.c] [dm.sup.-3]; [Al.sup.3+] = 0.27[cmol.sub.c] [dm.sup.-3]; P (Mehlich-1)=19.5mg [dm.sup.-3]; and organic matter = 16.5g [kg.sup.-1].

The experiment was performed using a randomized block design with subdivided plots and four replicates. The primary plot consisted of the following cropping systems: IPA-Sertania intercropped with leucaena, IPA-Sertania intercropped with gliricidia, and the cactus in its isolated form. The plots measured 30m x 16m. The subplots were divided by fertilizer, with the following manure sources: cattle, sheep, goat, and broiler litter. These covered areas of 30m x 4m.

The cactus used in this study was planted in March of 2011, at a spacing of 1m x 0.25m, while the legumes were distributed in three double-rows per plot, at a spacing of 9m between each pair, 1m between the rows constituting a pair, and 0.5m between plants in the same row. Fertilization was based on total N concentration, following the recommendation of 200kg [ha.sup.-1] of N and correcting the dry matter concentration of the manure. Manure was applied in 2012 and 2013, while the cactus was harvested at the end of each year, and in 2015. Manures were distributed between the cactus lines, excluding the double-rows of legumes.

The cacti were collected in April 2016, with the original portions preserved after each cut. In the intercropped cultivation group, plants were harvested at a distance of 1, 2, 3, and 4m from the legumes, with 2 plants/distances/subplots being sampled. For the isolated cultivation group, this corresponded to 4 plants/subplots. The plants were weighed in the field. One composite sample was made and pre-dried in a forced air circulation oven at 55[degrees]C until reaching a constant weight (SILVA & QUEIROZ, 2009). Dry matter production (DMP) was calculated based on the plant density per subplot.

N concentration was obtained via dry combustion, using the Dumas method (Vario Micro Cube, Elementar, Hanau, Germany). To determine P, K, Ca, and Mg concentration, the samples were digested in a mixture of nitric acid and perchloric acid (5:1mL) and analyzed according to the methodology described by BEZERRA NETO & BARRETO (2004).

Analysis of variance was carried out using PROC MIXED by SAS (SAS, 1999). The fixed effects were the cropping system, manure sources, and distances of the legume double-rows. The block was analyzed as a random effect. When the F-test was significant, the treatment means were compared using Tukey's test at 5% probability. Collection distances were submitted to regression analysis.


No differences were observed in the production of cactus dry matter between the studied cropping systems (Table 1). This is likely the case due to the residual effect of fertilizing in 2012, 2013, and 2015 with the same manure sources. Given the passage of five years after establishing the intercropping, these results demonstrated that both the sources and the quantity of utilized manure were adequate, to the effect that the residual influence of the manure reduced the competitive effect of the legumes on the cactus.

P and K concentrations differed (P<0.05) between the cropping systems (Table 1). Cactus P concentration in the gliricidia samples was greater than in the leucaena samples but did not differ from the isolated samples. This could be the result of lower deposition and contribution of this nutrient from the leadtree litter, as observed by BERTALOT et al. (2004). The greatest concentration of K was obtained with the isolated samples, which could be the result of the absence of competition and the high demand for this nutrient by the cactus (DUBEUX JUNIOR et al., 2006). However, this value did not differ (P<0.05) from that of the gliricidia sample, likely due to the higher concentrations of this nutrient in the upper part of the gliricidia (BARRETO & FERNANDES, 2001). These results indicated that gliricidia contributes to P and K concentrations in intercropping with the cactus.

A correlation was observed (P<0.05) between distances between the legume and manure lines and production of cactus dry matter and N concentration (Table 2). The greatest cactus production was obtained at 1 m using cattle and sheep manure. A regression analysis of these samples showed a quadratic effect (P<0.05), indicating a decrease in production at 2 m, with an increase after 3 and 4 m. The greatest production being at the lowest distance might be the result of greater legume litter deposits (SILVA et al., 2013) and the greater application of manure and; consequently, macronutrients. Conversely, this greater quantity could have yielded improvements in the soil properties, such as greater retention of humidity and water availability (SILVA et al., 2004), which would in turn favor nutrient absorption and, consequently, greater production.

Regression analysis of the broiler litter fertilizer showed a linear effect (P<0.05), indicating a reduction in the production of dry matter as legume distance increased. This is likely due to a decrease in overall manure and litter deposition at increased distances.

Meanwhile, regression analysis of cactus N concentration (Table 2) was not significant for either a linear or quadratic effect with respect to distance for any manure. N concentration differed with distance for goat manure and broiler litter, with the lowest values observed for a legume distance of 2m. However, for cattle and sheep manure, no differences were observed with respect to distance. These observations may result from a low or nonexistent contribution made by legumes to biological N fixation, which could have resulted from the fact that rainfall in the years preceding cactus harvesting was lighter than normal for the area. Moreover, the supply of organic N in the soil solution from fertilizing with manure could have inhibited symbiosis between plant roots and N fixing bacteria.

Generally, the greatest N concentrations were obtained with broiler litter, likely due to the more rapid decomposition and accompanying release of N inherent to this material. SILVA et al. (2014), when evaluating cattle manure and broiler litter in Red-Yellow Acrisol, reported a more rapid decomposition in the first 30 days for the broiler litter. This was accompanied by a faster initial release of N, which slowed down in the subsequent periods.

Legume distance affected (P<0.05) K and Mg concentrations in the cactus (Table 3). K concentration varied linearly. Regression analysis indicated a decrease in concentration as distance increased, seeing how the greatest deposition of litter and nutrients occurs in the bands closest to the trees. Conversely, Mg concentration showed a quadratic effect, with a decrease at 2m; this may be because, at this distance, there is greater competition with the legumes for this nutrient.

Manure source had an effect (P<0.05) on N, K, Ca, and Mg cactus concentrations (Table 4). Although, fertilizing was performed based on N concentration, following the recommendation of 200kg [ha.sup.-1], the greatest quantities of this nutrient were obtained using broiler litter, likely as a function of the more rapid decomposition. According to MINSON (1990), for normal rumen function, the crude protein concentration of forage should be, at least, 70g [kg.sup.-1], or 11.2g [kg.sup.-1] of N in dry matter. However, the average N values reported in this study were lower than those indicated. As such, it will be necessary to include dietary supplements with protein sources, such as legumes, not only in order to increase dry matter and protein intake, but also to correct for the diarrhea that would result when this food source is supplied alone or consumed freely (GALVAO JUNIOR et al., 2014).

Generally, cactus K, Ca, and Mg concentration were lower when using broiler litter as a fertilizer given the lower applied quantity of this manure and; consequently, the lower amount of other macronutrients.


Intercropping IPA-Sertania cactus with leucaena or gliricidia, or cultivating it alone, does not influence DMP, but influences the composition of macronutrients in the cactus, with the best results obtained for cactus cultivated alone and with gliricidia.

The distance between the legume rows and the manure sources utilized for fertilizing influences production and N concentration in cactus that is intercropped with leucaena and gliricidia. 10.1590/0103-8478cr20180324

Received 04.17.18

Approved 11.19.18

Returned by the author 12.19.18



The authors declare no conflict of interest. The founding sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.


The authors appreciated the CNPq fellowship provided to Dr. Mercia Santos and Dr. Alexandre Mello and the Graduate Assistantship funded by FACEPE to fund the PhD of Dr. Karina Miranda.


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Karina Rodrigues de Miranda (1) * (iD) Jose Carlos Batista Dubeux Junior (2) Alexandre Carneiro Leao de Mello (3) Maria da Conceicao Silva (4) Mercia Virginia Ferreira dos Santos (3) Djalma Cordeiro dos Santos (4)

(1) Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco (UFRPE), 52171900, Recife, PE, Brasil. E-mail: * Corresponding author.

(2) University of Florida (UF), Marianna, FL, EUA.

(3) Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco (UFRPE), Recife, PE, Brasil.

(4) Instituto Agronomico de Pernambuco (IPA), Arcoverde, PE, Brasil.
Table 1--Dry matter production (DMP) and phosphorus (P) and potassium
(K) concentration in IPA-Sertania cactus cultivated in different
cropping systems in Caruaru, PE.

Cropping systems                  DMP                P            K

                            Mg [ha.sup.-1] 2   g [kg.sup.-1]
Cactus intercropped with         20.5A             3.80A       29.02AB
Cactus intercropped with         21.2A             2.79B       23.55B
Cactus cultivated alone          24.5A            3.45AB       30.56A
Standard error                    1.5              0.27         2.54

Identical uppercase letters in columns do not differ by Tukey's test
at 5% probability.

Table 2--Dry matter production (DMP) and nitrogen (N) concentration in
IPA-Sertania cactus at different distances between double-rows of
legumes and manure sources in Caruaru, PE.

                         Mg [ha.sup.-1] 2 [years.sup.-1]
Distances          Cattle     Goat     Sheep    Broiler litter

1m                  28.3a     21.8a    27.9a        19.2a
2m                  16.3a     19.8a    18.0a        19.1a
3m                  17.0a     21.0a    20.8a        16.9a
4m                  20.9a     22.5a    21.3a        14.6b
Standard error       2.0       2.0      2.0          2.0
Linear effect      0.0114    0.7213    0.1259       0.0123
Quadratic effect   0.0001    0.4107    0.0413       0.4287
                                    g [kg.sup.-1]
1m                 9.47Aab   10.9Aab   9.25Ab      11.07ABa
2m                 9.04Aab   7.81Bb    9.61Aa      10.40Ba
3m                 9.07Ab    9.67Ab    8.49Ab      12.01Aa
4m                 9.61Aab   9.40Aab   9.02Ab      10.99ABa
Standard error      0.69      0.69      0.69         0.69
Linear effect      0.7893    0.6678    0.3990       0.7056
Quadratic effect   0.2026    0.0531    0.8535       0.8265

Identical letters, uppercase in columns and lowercase in lines, do not
differ by Tukey's test at 5% probability.

Table 3--Potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg) concentration in IPA-
Sertania cactus at different distances between double-rows of legumes
in Caruaru, PE.

Distances             K        Mg
                     g [kg.sup.-1]

1m                  30.10     8.9
2m                  26.12     7.0
3m                  25.28     7.3
4m                  23.59     7.4
Standard error      3.07      0.8
Linear effect      <0.0001   0.0154
Quadratic effect   0.3005    0.0063

Table 4--Nitrogen (N), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg)
concentration in IPA-Sertania cactus fertilized with different manure
sources in Caruaru, PE.

Manure             N         K        Ca        Mg
                                g [kg.sup.-1]
Cattle           9.03B    29.79A    15.4B      8.4A
Goat             9.04B    29.01A    18.9A      7.6A
Broiler litter   10.57A   25.49B    14.7B      6.1B
Sheep            8.88B    26.56AB   16.3AB     7.7A
Standard error    0.56     2.38      0.7        0.6

Identical uppercase letters in columns do not differ by Tukey's test
at 5% probability.
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Author:de Miranda, Karina Rodrigues; Dubeux, Jose Carlos Batista, Jr.; de Mello, Alexandre Carneiro Leao; S
Publication:Ciencia Rural
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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